Going out drinking after work with co-workers and sometimes customers is a long custom among Japanese businessmen. But the implications of a July 15 editorial in The Japan Times newspaper, “Downward trend in drinking,” are that a fall in the number of times per month that salaried workers go out for after-work drinking, and a corresponding fall in the average amount they spend each outing are bad. They are indicative of a deteriorating economy and in themselves they indicate a deteriorating social outlook among Japanese. But I suggest that a decline in such things are entirely good, like a reduction in tobacco use. Rather than indicating a malaise the trend might indicate that Japanese are waking up to healthier living and healthier priorities.
Like tobacco, alcohol is a legal drug. People who drink alcohol, like tobacco smokers, are drug users. People who drink to inebriation are drug abusers. Alcoholics are drug addicts. Drinking is unhealthy and a sign of vice and depravity more than, or at least as much as thirst. Seeing television commercials, billboards, mailbox flyers, etc. advertising and praising the refreshing virtues of alcohol really grate on me, and it is reprehensible that in the hot summer time distillers and brewers should look for profits from a sweating public forced to work in unhealthy, unnatural over-heated (28°) offices. Who cares if alcohol makers suffer and maybe close as a result of a decline in public drinking? That’s a good thing.
After work, people ought to go home. Ideally, home with family is the place to be, and I wonder if those who think differently are some kind of mutants. Or, maybe I am the mutant because for me labor begins and ends with departure from and return to my door, not with arrival at and departure from the office. And, the people I work with are the last people on earth I want to spend my free time with, drinking or otherwise. I guess all of this shows, after a quarter century living here, how unassimilated I remain to the ambient culture.
In Japanspring time cherry blossom viewing, summer festivals, New Year’s parties and more are practically synonymous with beer. Furthermore, marriage is intimately bound with ceremonial use of sake, so attacking alcohol in Japanese custom is trying to take a deep stab at the culture. Still, it would be a good precedent to make this point publicly loud and clear.