• Home
  • HOW TO
  • Sipping Sake on the Streets: Public Drinking in Japan 


Jan 22, 2023

HOW TOSipping Sake on the Streets: Public Drinking in Japan 

For someone living in the western part of the world, it may come as a surprise that you can publicly drink in japan. Drinking is heavily ingrained in Japanese culture and is seen as a very acceptable way to unwind or decompress. So, take that drink on the go!

Jan 22, 2023

You’re not in New York anymore

It is your first night in Tokyo. Your friends are ready to leave for a local bar, but you’re hesitant to leave your freshly opened drink behind. One of your friends hands it to you, saying “Take it for the road.” You follow, confused. “You’re not in New York anymore!” says your friend.

Drinking in public: A normal part of Japanese culture

The United States and Japan are different in many ways. The formalities, the culture, even the toilets can be shockingly different. But none of that matters on a fun night out – because in Japan, you can drink in public. Leave your brown paper bags behind and take your beverage to town!

Swig some shochu in the park. Sip some sake on the train. This may come as a surprise to Westerners with Japan’s perceived higher cultural standards, but drinking in public is quite normal and accepted. The lifestyle of a business person in Japan is often very rigorous and grueling, so nobody will bat an eye if someone is strolling down the street with a beer cracked or a cup ozeki after a long work day.

Drinking is heavily ingrained in Japanese culture and is seen as a very acceptable way to unwind or decompress with co-workers. It’s so integrated into Japanese culture that alcoholic beverage vending machines are still common in Japan.

In fact, a number of food and beverage stands make their appearance at the numerous summer festivals throughout Japan. Since public drinking is legal in Japan, you can grab your favorite beverage from one stand and take a stroll down the street and grab some amazing Japanese street food like yakitori or yakisoba from another. This combination makes for a fun and adventurous weekend activity to do with friends and family. 

Safety first, sip second

Now, don’t get it twisted. Disorderly conduct is still very illegal in Japan, similar to the United States. So when you have your night out in Tokyo with a fist full of Sapporo, don’t make a fool of yourself in public. Like always, everything is good in moderation.

Have fun with your shochu in the park, but don’t mistake that beautiful sakura tree for a urinal. Enjoy that sake on the train, but don’t mistake the stanchions in a subway car for stripper poles. And especially don’t drink and drive (or drink and bike)!

Tokyo, with a drink in hand

“It’s just at the end of the block,” says your friend as you approach the bar in the distance. You bring the bottle to your lips and enjoy your last gulp. As you scan the area for a trashcan, you look to your left and notice a beautiful view of Tokyo’s cityscape. It nearly takes your breath away.

“Everyone, look!” you say. The group turns their heads and notices the beauty. Without hesitation, you cross the street to get a better look. The group follows your lead. You plop onto a bench that faces the outlook. You notice flashing neon signs in the distance and tall buildings lit up with beautiful colors. The group joins you on the bench and admires the view with you. Before sitting, your friend looks at you and points to his right. You look: a flashing vending machine serving delicious alcoholic soft drinks. “Shall we?” asks your friend.

“Cheers!” The group says as they clash their cans together. They each take a swig while enjoying the view.

Larsen, Brooke et al. “Japan’S Toxic Drinking Culture No One Talks About”. Gaijinpot Blog, 2019, https://blog.gaijinpot.com/japans-toxic-drinking-culture-no-one-talks-about/. Accessed 5 Jan 2023.

“Japan’s Drinking Laws – Nomunication”. Nomunication, 2016, https://www.nomunication.jp/japans-drinking-laws/. Accessed 5 Jan 2023.
“Drinking Age In Japan & Other Japanese Laws: Things You “Can” And “Can’t” Do While In Japan! | LIVE JAPAN Travel Guide”. LIVE JAPAN, 2023, https://livejapan.com/en/article-a0002756/#:~:text=Aside%20from%20crime%20prevention%20issues,circumstances%20%E2%80%93%20even%20inside%20a%20train. Accessed 5 Jan 2023.