Alcohol in Japan


Alcohol dehydrogenase: Many East-Asians lack an enzyme that breaks down alcohol. They get intoxicated very rapidly and suffer severe effects from drinking even small quantities of alcohol.

French wines still have a lot of cachet in Japan. As most people here have very limited knowledge about wines, they tend to place a premium on the country of origin, which is more easily determined than quality. I think French wines in Japan are vastly overpriced, when compared to quality products from around the Pacific rim (California, Australia, Chile).

German wines: While living as a German in the UK and Japan, I have sometimes received bottles of German wine as a gift from visitors. There are good German wines but they are rarely exported. What is available in stores in countries without much of a wine history such as the UK or Japan is better avoided. Personally, I tend to buy Californian, Australian or Chilean wines, mostly Chardonnay, if I drink at all.

München (Munich), Sapporo and Milwaukee: In Japan these three "beer capitals of the world" are commonly believed to lie on the same parallel. Unfortunately, this is a myth that probably dates back to an advertising slogan used by Sapporo Breweries in 1958. It isn't true at all. Sapporo and Wilwaukee lie on the same parallel, about 43 degrees north, but Munich at 48 degrees north is more than 550 km closer to the North Pole than either of these places. You can even find the myth perpetuated outside of Japan these days: "On the same beer-soaked latitude as Munich and Milwaukee, Sapporo lays undisputed claim to the title of Japan's brewing mecca." (

Sake or Japanese rice wine is made from mashed and fermented rice. It's alcohol content is similar to regular wines, about 14 percent. Some brands are very expensive, like matured whiskeys. Several famous politicians descended from families of sake brewers.

Whisky used to be much mory highly taxed than Japanese shochu spirits. If you want to get a good one, get a single malt Glenmorangie.

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