University students and under-age drinking


Have you ever drunk alcohol while underage? graph of japanese statisticsThe site t-news Web, a site for university students that claims to have over 30,000 subscribers from the Tokyo area, with a high percentage of them being medical students from Tokyo and Waseda Universities, took a look at underage drinking by university students.


Over the 20th and 21th of April 2013 323 undergraduate and postgraduate students completed an internet-based questionnaire. 51% of the sample were male, and 25% were from Tokyo University, 16% from Waseda University, 14% from Keio University, 3% from Hitotsubashi University, and 42% from other.

Judging by other forums, asking about the drinking age and carding is a common question for people planning to come to Japan, so as far as I am aware from other people’s input, there is very little if any checking of credentials except perhaps at night clubs. Most convenience stores and supermarkets, however, when you buy booze the till pops up a message on a screen asking you to confirm if you are 20 years old, usually both in English and Japanese. I’ve not actually bought any booze outside a pub for years, but it appears that there is no “NO” button on the till, so unless you shop in a school uniform no-one quite frankly bothers.

Research results

First, almost everyone in the sample was aware that it was illegal to drink whilst underage, which in Japan’s case is under 20 years old.

Q1: Have you ever drunk alcohol while underage? (Sample size=323)


Q2: What do you think about underage drinking? (Sample size=323, multiple answer)

Compared to overage drinkers, there are more people with problem drinking styles15748.6%
It’s a problem because it is illegal12538.7%
As one can drink from age 18 overseas, Japan’s laws are odd9228.5%
There is a lot of pluses for drinking when it comes to making friends, participating in clubs, etc8024.8%
It is nothing but evil206.2%
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1 Comment »

  1. Steven said,
    May 8, 2013 @ 12:01

    While Japan has gotten better in the realm of preventative measures when it comes to underage drinking, I believe they have a ways to go.

    Vending machines used to carry alcoholic beverages in the not so distant past. As a matter of fact, there are still many of them that still carry alcohol (perhaps more-so in the countryside).

    If you talk to older people, you may come across some who have experienced drinking at a bar (with their school uniforms on!) when they were younger.

    Nowadays, just like you said, they have an “are you 20” button on the display screen of cash registers to help prevent underage drinking (etc.). In other words, you have to literally tell the person manning the cash register “no” by your own volition. That’s a joke.

    At restaurants and bars, I have seen plenty of people who are under 20 (sometimes they’re people I’ve known). It seems like the workers serving alcohol aren’t even 20 sometimes.

    Convenience stores seem to be the main pushers of a lot of society’s ills. They sell all of the junk you don’t need. I’ve come across some that had “sample” cigarettes on their counters (like, “try one, they’re great!”). I hear about kids being sent to convenient stores on their days off to do what is basically grocery shopping. They use their parent’s cell phone credit to pay for all of the junk they don’t need. And when they go to pay for it all– nothing but cigarettes in view from the cash register. Somehow advertisements of things kids are actually interested in some how creep in there. I don’t think that is an accident.

    To be honest, I think things are getting better, though. I seem to see more older people rather than younger people getting completely wasted. Maybe that’s simply because it costs quite a bit of money to go out drinking. As far as smoking goes, I don’t see as many underage smokers as I used to (new vending machines probably have a lot to do with this), but I think plenty of people still choose to smoke.

    BTW, here’s something interesting: At certain convenience stores, employees are trained to know the Chinese zodiac signs! In other words, they’ll ask the kids trying to buy alcohol or cigarettes what their sign is, and when they can’t answer (right away), or answer incorrectly it’s usually an indication of an underage individual.

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