Alcohol consumption is a widely accepted recreational activity in Japan, much of which happens at drinking places. The vast number of late-night liquor-serving facilities underpins the ubiquity of drinking as a leisure activity in Japanese society, as well as the central role pubs and other types of drinking places play in it. Unlike the case with other substances that can cause addiction, the (regular) consumption of alcohol has few negative connotations attached to it. In fact, being able to hold one’s liquor is a highly valued trait in Japanese society. From the government perspective, alcohol consumption is lucrative, contributing to Japan’s public finance through revenues gathered from national liquor taxes. There are several market segments in the drinking establishment industry. Japanese-style pubs, called izakaya, are emblematic of Japan’s drinking culture, comprising an important industry segment. Bars and nightclubs, ryotei (traditional high-end drinking places), and coffee shops, are the other important segments. Consumers are attracted to drinking places, among other reasons, because of the informal setting that provides the possibility to enjoy quality alcoholic beverages alone or with others in a pleasant atmosphere.
Traditional drinking establishments
The various market segments mentioned above represent different establishment types. Their common denominator is that business is centered on selling alcoholic beverages to customers, except for coffee shops, which usually specialize in caffeinated beverages. Izakaya and ryotei are traditional Japanese drinking places unique in their kind. Beer is the most common alcoholic beverage consumed at drinking places, but facilities usually provide a wide array of products. Next to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, most drinking places also have a broad variety of foodstuffs on the menu. When drinking, it is customary to order a few side dishes, such as edamame (green soybeans), green cabbage, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), and raw or prepared fish. The average price paid per visit varies by the type of drinking place, with izakaya generally posing the most affordable option. On the other side of the spectrum, ryotei stores are characterized by luxury, exclusivity, and high prices. Traditionally, services offered at ryotei featured, next to food and beverages, entertainment by geishas and were solicited during important occasions, such as high-ranking political or business meetings.
Business during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard, especially the drinking places segment. Most types of restaurants suffered greatly under the pandemic with the overall sales revenue of the food service industry experiencing an unprecedented decline. The period succeeding the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic saw several nationwide and local lockdowns, followed or interspersed by governmental ordinations for self-restraint in many areas of public activity. Drinking places were identified as prime locations for the spread of the pandemic, which is why many of the introduced rules and regulations to stop the spread of the virus, specifically targeted drinking facilities. Public discouragement to visit drinking places, closure orders, and restrictions on operating hours during periods without lockdown brought the industry into a dismal state. The market size of drinking establishments contracted severely while leading industry players had to downsize. People shifted from drinking at pubs and restaurants to drinking at home, while after-work gatherings at drinking places declined. It remains to be seen whether this was a temporary trend, or if it has long-lasting effects on people’s alcohol consumption-related habits.
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In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Drinking facilities in Japan".