Japan launches new contest to get its young people to drink more alcohol

People in Japan aren't drinking as much as they used to, so the country is hosting a business contest to boost booze sales, especially among young people.

The Sake Viva! contest, organized by the National Tax Agency, the country's official tax-collecting agency, will allow young people all over the world to pitch their own business plans and, the agency hopes, help revitalize the alcohol industry, organizers said.

The competition is open to anyone 20 to 39, even those who don't live in Japan. Application documents just have to be submitted in Japanese, the contest website said.

Plans can include ideas for sake, shochu, awamori, beer, whiskey, wine, liqueur and other types of alcohol.

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What's causing the decline?

The tax agency says the domestic alcoholic beverage market is shrinking because of declining birthrates, aging populations and lifestyle changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In its 2021 report, the group said there has been a shift in the country: People have gone from drinking more beer to lower-priced liquor, such as sparkling liquor, chuhai and beer-like products.

COVID-19 has also reduced domestic liquor consumption since April 2020, especially in restaurants.

And in its 2020 National Tax Agency Annual Statistics Report, the agency said tax revenue from alcoholic beverages decreased 112.4 billion yen, or about 10%, from 2019. Beer tax revenue decreased by 132.3 billion yen, or about 26% year over year. Meanwhile, liqueur increased by 31 billion yen, or 15.6%, from 2019.

Other efforts to increase alcohol sales

The competition isn't the tax agency's only attempt at increasing alcohol sales.

The organization launched a Japanese Wine Fun website, had a wine fair, a craft beer online festival and created a space for Japanese breweries to add themselves to an online map.

The organization has also taken steps to make sure people are drinking responsibly. The legal drinking age in Japan is 20, according to Chiba University, so the group has designated each April as the “Month to emphasize prevention from consuming alcohol under the age of 20” and hosts activities to teach the public.

Applications for the group's latest contest can be submitted at Finalists will be chosen on Sept. 27, and a final tournament will be held in Nov. 10 in Tokyo.

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY's NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia the 757 and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Japanese tax agency hosts contest to boost young people alcohol sales