Did it get so bad that we have to rely on a mayor stopping alcohol consumption?

Although business culture in Europe is known for alcohol consumption during work hours – for example at business lunches or dinners – I have seen and experienced some heavy alcohol consumption in Asia. Japan might not be the top on the list in Asia with a consumption according to Wikipedia of 7.83 liter per head (Korea: 11.80 liter, Thailand: 6.36, China: 4.21 liter, Singapore: 0.55 liter, or then in comparison Switzerland 10.56 liter, USA 8.44 liter), but still the custom of having alcoholic beverages together with business partners and co-workers is quite common. Due to the economic downturn and the decrease of the pocket-money of the “average salaryman”, for sure less alcohol is consumed now than in the past.
Surprisingly this week according to Mainichi Shimbun the mayor of Fukuoka (Soichiro Takashima) ordered a month-long ban on alcohol drinking for all city officials outside their homes. Recently there has been an increase of alcohol-related incidents involving a city firefighter and a vice principal of an elementary school. Based on the Mainichi Shimbun article a member of the Fukuoka City Fire Department was arrested on suspicion of stealing a vehicle in February after drinking alcohol, plus then in April, the vice principal of a municipal elementary school was busted for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. The goal of this rather unusual strict action is to force city officials to undergo a “shock therapy” so that citizens’ trust can be restored by changing the bad climate of drinking over the years. Based on the comments on local Asahi TV the “problem age range” of the city employees, who had caused annoyance to others under high alcohol influence seem to be in their 50s.
Based on my personal experience in a professional setting I have seen Japanese men or women, getting so drunk that they passed out on the floor of the restaurant as the worst example or end up drinking so much that they were unable to finish a Japanese sentence on their own. Of course this did not happen a lot, but definitely much more in Japan than in any country I have worked or visited on business. Personally I have seen employees in any age range or position getting so drunk that they barely knew anymore what they said. While higher alcohol consumption was so far culturally commonly accepted, it seems to me changes are seen now with the local governments.
Another example of toughening up local governmental officials: The mayor of Osaka (Toru Hashimoto) ordered recently a survey of tattoo ownership among the 30,000 employees, after complaints that a welfare officer had intimidated children by showing off his ink work. Based on the article in the Guardian the government is even now considering whether to ask these employees – most work in waste disposal and public transport – to have their tattoos erased, or even to find another job.
While I see people under the influence of alcohol not being able to function professionally, I wonder though whether having a hidden tattoo will actually influence job performance.

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)

2 thoughts on “Did it get so bad that we have to rely on a mayor stopping alcohol consumption?

  1. Interesting to learn of the problems with excessive alcohol consumption in Japan. My son, while living and working in Seoul for three years learned that he had to draw a very firm line about when he would go home from the after-hours “meetings” of his co-workers and employees!

    • Dear Granbee,

      Oh, I know after work meetings in Korea can be challenging: Lots, lots of alcohol and never ending. I guess I am really lucky to live in Japan.

      Best wishes,


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