None of the Japanese alcohol makers have signed on to the initiative. But bar owners praised it.
In Ginza, one of Tokyo’s popular nightlife districts, the pubs remained dimly lit and mostly quiet on Thursday night. “I hope this helps Ginza come alive again,” said Kenta Kobayashi, 34, a bartender who has seen a drastic drop in sales since the pandemic began.
On average, people in Japan drank about 20 gallons of alcohol in 2020, down from 26 gallons in 1995, according to government data. The decline has hurt lucrative tax revenues: Levies on alcohol accounted for 1.7 percent of Japan’s tax revenue (about $8 billion) in 2020, down from 3 percent in 2011 and 5 percent in 1980.
In the United States, state and local governments collected $7.7 billion in alcohol taxes, or 0.2 percent of general revenue, in 2019, according to the Urban Institute.
Under the Japan tax agency’s contest, participants may propose new products and designs targeting young people, even sales techniques involving artificial intelligence or the metaverse. As long as submissions are written in Japanese, they may come from anywhere. The winning entry will be commercialized.
The contest’s organizers said that overindulgence was not the goal, adding that people should drink only “the appropriate amount” and take “common sense” measures against contracting the virus. “We are in no way promoting excessive drinking among young people,” said Ryo Tsukamoto, a spokesman for the agency’s alcohol tax division.
But critics worried about unintended consequences. Hidetomi Tanaka, an economist, called the effort an “irresponsible and unorthodox drinking campaign.” About one million Japanese suffer from alcoholism, while about 9.8 million others are potentially addicted, according to research by the Japanese Health Ministry.
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