How much does it cost to get good and drunk in Japan?
In Japan, spirits are fairly cheap. You can get pretty good and sloshed on cheap whiskey for under 500 yen ($6), and the price of a decent bottle is not that much worse. The strong yen has driven price-per-bottle up a bit, relative to US stores (depending on state taxes). However, hard alcohol remains the cheapest fount of inebriation available. On the other hand, if beer is your preferred ticket to Drunkytown, your wallet is in for a bit of a shock.
Your average 12 oz can of Japanese beer—Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, it makes no difference, they all taste and cost roughly the same—is about 200 yen. This is about $2.50. For a can of beer. At the store. Coming from a state where six tall cans of awful-yet-still-superior swill (Highlife, PBR, Olympia: the holy trinity of cheap beer) can be had in six, 16 oz cans for $4, this seems wrong on so many levels.
Even at the store, a Japanese six-pack will set you back 1200 yen ($15). Tall boys are 1600 yen ($20).
This, however, is not the cheapest beer you can go to. There are low-malt beverages called happoushu (発泡酒) which translates roughly to “sparkling alcoholic drink” or happousei (発泡性) which is even worse. Taxes are determined not by alcohol content but by malt, so the worse your beer tastes, the lower the taxes are. These beers taste like sadness and reek of desperation.
Hell, back home a six-pack of Rogue Dead Guy Ale in glorious glass bottles is $9.99! 800 YEN?! This makes any mainstream Japanese brand beer roughly one-and-a-half to two-times the price of one of the finest local microbrews in the Pacific Northwest. Microbreweries exist in Japan, but with fewer than thirty operating, they are rare, and you will pay a dear price for their wares. Bottles of Nagahama’s finest Roman Beer are available in gift packs and single bottles for a mere 500 yen a pop.
Granted, Japanese people require less beer than we do to achieve the same desired effect, but this is insane. Bars typically charge 500-600 yen for a glass, but you can always go for the all-you-can-drink option when you’re at an izakaya.
Drinking beer is probably the most expensive part of living in Japan. If the government is trying to deter people getting schwasted, they are doing a poor job. Drinking remains an essential part of Japanese culture. Switch to whiskey.
(Based on 2012-03-27 exchange rate of roughly 83 JPY to USD)