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The Kankou Keizai Shinbun (tourism economics newspaper) reports on a survey by the Sakebunka Kenkyūjo (Sakebunka Institute, Inc., where sakebunka refers to traditions or habits around drinking – sake in Japanese means “alcohol/alcoholic drink”).

The online survey was sent between 6 and 9 November 2017 to 1,486 people who reported that they drink “most days”, and 117 responses were received.

The article notes that the number of overseas visitors has been rising steadily in recent years and is expected to continue doing so in the run up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games. While the study found that traditional nihonshu (called sake in English) was the strongest contender, it also commented on a rising trend for drinks favoured by younger people, such as beer.

The first question they asked was “what drinks would you recommend to visitors from overseas?”

  • Nihonshu (reishu/chilled) 86%
  • Nihonshu (o-kan/heated) 64%
  • Japanese beer 43%
  • Shōchū 38%
  • Premium Japanese whisky 37%
  • Japanese wine 35%
  • Japanese craft beer 35%
  • Special styles of nihonshu, such as nigori or sparkling 31%
  • Ume-shu (plum wine) 21%
  • Shōchū o-yu wari (diluted with warm water) 21%
  • Standard Japanese whisky 21%
  • Cup sake 14%
  • Inexpensive Japanese whisky 10% 

Seen the results for chilled and heated nihonshu, it looks like many respondents wanted visitors to try both. Responses for whisky, craft beer, wine and ume-shu were more likely to come from respondents aged under 50.

The next question was why they would recommend these drinks to visitors from overseas:

  • Because it’s distinctively Japanese 69%
  • Because it’s delicious 64%
  • Because it’s good quality 43%
  • Because it goes well with food 34%
  • Because I think it doesn’t exist overseas 30%
  • Because it’s traditional 23%
  • Because it has a unique taste 14%
  • Because it’s rare 9%

The final question was where should visitors from overseas go to enjoy a drink:

  • Well-known traditional izakaya 56%
  • Well-known inexpensive izakaya 55%
  • Stand-up bar 46%
  • Sushi restaurant 35%
  • Famous Japanese restaurant 32%
  • Chain izakaya 19%
  • Famous restaurant serving Western-style food 12%
  • Authentic bar 11%

Over 20% of respondents under 50 years old replied “authentic bar”, showing another division between age groups.