The Legal Age for Drinking in Japan

Yumi Murata

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I’ve made a list for drinkers of places where you can taste sake in Tokyo.

After I finished making this list, I remembered that if you are 19 years old or younger, you can’t buy or drink alcohol here in Japan, even if you can legally drink in your own country.

Unique vending machines for alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverage vending machine

Credit: begs via Flickr

There are tons of vending machines in Japan, including machines that sell alcohol and cigarettes.

We had a serious problem in the past because teenagers could buy either of them from vending machines any time. Then vending machines selling alcoholic beverages and cigarettes had to be modified so that people couldn’t buy from them between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

A new vending machine

Credit: James Willamor via Flickr

When adults want to buy an alcoholic beverage or a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine, they first have to insert their driver’s license into a device on the machine.


Alcoholic beverages at a convenience store

Credit: Kojach via Flickr

When this system was first introduced, the number of these vending machines on the streets was increasing. However, after sales licensing requirements were relaxed, supermarkets and convenience stores started selling a variety of alcoholic beverages. Because of this, the number of vending machines selling alcohol and packs of cigarettes has been decreasing.

Are you over 20 years old? Are you sure?

When you go into a convenience store to buy alcohol or cigarettes, sometimes a sales clerk will ask you to touch a screen on the front of the cash register. If you look young, then he or she wants to check that you are over 20 years old. By touching the screen you are confirming that you are legally able to purchase those items.

Anyway, here in Japan, you can buy alcohol at convenience stores anytime, so be careful not to drink too much!!

The information covered in this article was correct at the time of writing. In the case of national holidays and seasonal holidays, opening hours may vary. If the information has changed, please notify us and we will alter it accordingly.

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