Japanese Drinking Ages and Manners


In Japan, there are various kinds of alcohol, such as sake, beer, chu-hi, and highball. Many people enjoy it daily because it is easily available at convenience stores.

However, as a matter of course, the age may be confirmed at the time of purchase. This time, we will introduce the drinking rules in Japan and the etiquette when invited to a drinking party, so please refer to it.

From What Age Can You Drink Alcohols in Japan?

cigarette and liquor sign

The age at which you can drink alcohol in Japan is specified to be from 20 years old. Japanese people can smoke and drink when they reach the age of 20.

When you buy alcohol at convenience stores or supermarkets, the store clerk may ask you to confirm your age. In particular, people who look under the age of 20 are likely to be required to present an identification card that indicates their age. If you cannot show it, the store may refuse to sell it.

Age verification is often done when drinking or purchasing alcohol, so be sure to carry your ID with you at all times.

By the way, it is also against the law to encourage people under the age of 20 to drink alcohol. Be careful not to recommend alcohol to non-adults even if you want to share a good time.

Manners and Precautions at Drinking Parties

drinking party with co-worker

Each country has different drinking manners. What kind of manners and precautions do drinking parties have in Japan?

Of course, they are not something that you must strictly follow, but some people care about manners that we will introduce here. So it may be useful to know.

In Case of Drinking Party with People Related to Work

In Japan, there are many opportunities to communicate with colleagues at work, bosses, and subordinates while drinking. Especially when going with your boss, be careful about the following.

Have Your Boss Sit on the Upper Seat

In Japan, there is a concept of “upper seat” and “lower seat” in the seat, and there is an etiquette that the person in high position sits on the upper one.

Generally, the place furthest from the entrance is the upper seat. In many cases, high-ranking people sit in there, and secretaries and young people sit in the lower seats to handle food orders.

And if the high-ranking person is particularly strict, you may need to ask if they want to have more alcohol if their glass is about to empty. Some people want young people who are in charge of ordering to notice it, so it may be a good idea to be careful when going to drinking parties with big customers or bosses of high position. However, this is tough for young people. If you are the boss, they will be pleased if you don’t force it.

Make a Toast When You Have All the Drinks

At Japanese drinking parties, even if the alcohol you ordered arrives first, you often wait until all the alcohol for other people comes. Then, when all the drinks have arrived, you can make a toast.

Because of this trend, some people think that the first drink to order should be a beer that can arrive quickly. This is a culture unique to Japan.

However, recently, more and more people are considering that they should order their favorite drink instead of beer. Some people are not good at alcohol in the first place, so it is better not to force them.

By the way, there is also an etiquette of lowering your glass a little when you clink it during a toast. It may be helpful to remember as a point when toasting with older people or people in a high position.

Say Thank You If Someone Treats You

When you go out for a drink with someone related to your work, the highest-ranked person on the spot may pay a large sum or pay the full amount.

In that case, be sure to thank the person for the treat.

For people who are strict at etiquette, they may want to hear words of appreciation twice in total: when they finish eating, and when you meet them again at your workplace. Therefore, it may be a good idea to thank them again for the treat when you meet on your next workday.

In Case of Drinking Party with Friends

When you go to a drinking party with friends, you can enjoy it without worrying about small manners, unlike when you go to work-related people. You don’t have to worry about who sits the upper seat, nor any treats.

That said, Japanese people often match the timing of a toast, so it may be a good idea to wait until everyone’s drink arrives. On the other hand, if the alcohol ordered by a friend arrives first, you can tell him/her that it’s OK to drink without waiting.

However, even friends should be polite, so avoid annoying them by getting drunk. It is the etiquette not to drink more than you can take.


In Japan, drinking alcohol is allowed at the age of 20, and you can order it at an izakaya or purchase it at convenience stores.

There are many etiquettes for drinking parties, but depending on your relationship with the other party, you may not need to worry much. It is more important to have fun communication with each other, so please refer to the etiquette introduced in this article as necessary.