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Alcohol in Japan

Now we have many articles that are just dying to be written, how to go about job hunting in Japan, how to avoid over time at work, as well as other great tips on working and living here  and these bad boys are definitely going to blow your mind. Now don’t worry we do intend to get round to writing these articles. In fact I have just finished writing an article about applying for a working holiday visa for Japan if you are a UK citizen, very useful and very valuable information right there.

However as the title implies for this article, first I want to talk about one very important topic, alcohol. Specifically on how it links to work here in Japan. Now you might be thinking, wait one second here, what has alcohol got to do with work? To put it simply, everything.

Now not everyone drinks. Some people find it too unhealthy or expensive. Some people don’t like the taste, others might just be too busy. However some people just can’t physically drink alcohol at all. That last fact I actually learnt during my 2 month training period at my Japanese company (It was a 2 hour seminar in a conference room, where we were given lots of free beer and told how to pour it into a glass ‘properly’….then the guy explained for around 30 seconds about the ill effects of alcohol. The seminar was done after all by a guy employed at an alcohol company.)

According to http://www.e-b-s.co.jp/products/genotypist1.html  9.5% of Japanese people just can’t drink the stuff without their bodies getting all crazy and weird. This rather interesting articles even suggest those people carrying around come crazy red card so they can prove to people that drinking is a risk to them.

The reason why they can’t drink is  essentially all down to genes, specifically two. The gene ADH1B, which breaks up the alcohol into acetaldehyde (a toxic), and is actually found a lot in Japanese people. According to the article 60% have genes that help efficiently break down the alcohol turning it in the toxic acetaldehyde. As a side effect it means that they don’t feel the ‘buzz’ of alcohol much either. We also have the gene ALDH2. This little guy then turns that toxic acetaldehyde into acetic acid, and 4% of Japanese people are unable to break this acetaldehyde down at all. Resulting in all kind of side effects such as turning red in the face, sweating, itching as well as just feeling pretty damn ill in general.

Despite the facts I have listed above about many people not wanting / being able to drink much alcohol, it is pretty damn hard to avoid the stuff here in Japan.  Especially if you are working at a Japanese company and you are male.

Ok now for some background about some of the main alcoholic beverages that are available in Japan. Because information is FUN! When I first came to Japan in my 20s I just assumed it would be the same as the UK where it is mainly beer and spirits mixers, such as lemonade and vodka or Jack Daniels and coke….how wrong I was.

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