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Why is Japan encouraging young people to drink more alcohol?

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A group of women enjoying an evening out in a restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.
A group of women enjoying an evening out in a restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.   -   Copyright  France Televisions via EBU
By Euronews via France Televisions

In the trendy Shibuya district of Tokyo, the bars are full and the glasses of alcohol are empty. For the Japanese government, this is not good news.

Japan's tax authority has launched a campaign to encourage young adults to drink more alcohol after a national drop in consumption led to a slide in tax revenues.

Coined after the nation’s famous rice wine, the "Sake Viva!" campaign is a contest to find slogans or ways to make alcohol more attractive to 20-39-year-olds, in a country where advertisements for alcoholic beverages are already ubiquitous.

The reaction to the competition has been mixed, according to Japanese media.

Many have accused the government of carelessly promoting an unhealthy habit. Noboru Hosaka, director of the "No to alcohol" association, called it “a very bad policy for the country”.

But for the hospitality sector, after months of COVID-19 lockdowns, the government’s move is a welcome one.

Abstention from drinking, a trend partly fuelled by the pandemic, and an ageing population are the main factors in alcohol sales falling.

The World Bank estimates that nearly a third (29 per cent) of Japan's population is aged 65 and older - the highest proportion in the world.

Tax on alcohol accounted for 1.7 per cent of Japan’s tax revenues in 2020, down from 5 per cent in 1980.

For more on this story, watch the report in the media player above.