In an unusual move, the Japanese government is encouraging the nation’s young adults to drink alcohol.
The 2020 pandemic and its aftershocks caused Japan’s alcohol tax revenue to tumble. According to reporting by The Japan Times, money from alcohol taxes fell by more than 110 billion yen, or about $805 million, during 2020.
“As working from home made strides to a certain extent during the COVID-19 crisis, many people may have come to question whether they need to continue the habit of drinking with colleagues to deepen communication,” a tax agency official told The Japan Times. “If the ‘new normal’ takes root, that will be an additional headwind for tax revenue.”
Now the government is sponsoring a contest called “Sake Viva!” to spread the word about Japanese booze.
The competition asks Japanese young folks, ages 20 to 39, to propose ideas for ways to make alcohol more appealing to their demographic. Proposals can include anything from advertising campaigns to new products to new sales techniques.
Entrants will have an uphill battle: Japan’s senior population is the largest in the world, with 29% of citizens age 65 and older. And recent social changes have made alcohol less appealing to younger generations.
“Socializing is seen as exhausting and a waste of mental energy,” alcohol journalist Toshihiko Oki told NPR. “Japanese worry about how they’re seen by other people, and they want to avoid getting drunk and blurting out anything that could trigger criticism.”
Not exactly the recipe for an alcohol boom, and COVID is still cause for concern.
“The media is announcing record COVID cases, while restaurants are like, ‘don’t talk while eating, wear a mask,’” 27-year-old Chika Kato told the New York Times. “But the government at the same time is asking us to go all out and drink … Who do I listen to?”
Entries can come from anywhere, as long as they’re in Japanese, and are received by Sept. 9. Finalists will be invited to a gala awards ceremony, and the tax agency says they’ll help implement the winning suggestion.