The Three Types of Drunk People in Japan: Thoughts from a Gaijin

Drunk people in America are obnoxious. There is no judgment here; I’m just stating a fact: drunk people in America are typically loud, rowdy, and high-energy. Raised in a culture of binge-drinking and Thursday – Saturday night parties, my roommate and I had many-a-night where a confused and intoxicated college student tried to climb through our window (we lived on the first floor next to a party-dorm). I thought that was pretty normal.

Ursinus College The view from the top floor of my dorm

One time I woke up and found two feet in my face. We had forgotten to lock our door; an intoxicated senior I had never seen before had crawled into my bed (upside-down) and was hugging my legs. It was pretty awkward. She had really pretty nail polish, though.

I’m just saying, in America we party hard.

Japan is a little… different. I was surprised when I got here, not just from the lack of campus parties, but from the overall drinking culture in Japan. I’m just going to go on record and say I am nearly positive that percetage-wise WAY more people drink in Japan than in America. I’m not talking about college students, I’m talking about your typical Japanese businessman. There is serious alcoholism in this country.

In any case, I’ve noticed there are 3 types of drunkards in Japan.

1. The quiet ones

Ryosuke’s father is a quiet drunk. So is his sister. Most older men (and women) are “quiet” when they drink. This term might be misleading, the more Ryosuke’s father drinks, the more he talks. However, he never loses his cool. He is always respectful, reserved, and uses his “inside voice.”

So I call people like that a “quiet drunk.” As I said before, these are the most common types in Japan. You see them leaning on co-workers at train station or passed out on benches. It is obvious they are drunk, they typically have the “Asian flush” (red face) and (usually) can barely stand.

Drinking in Japan

But other than that, they are pretty reserved. Occasionally they throw up on things or accidentally grope a female coworker, but they don’t do anything crazy like yell, argue, try to strip, or break things. They are relatively chill drunks. I don’t mind them at all.

2. The “finally lost their filter” ones

Every once and a while, I run into a drunk Japanese businessmen who has lost his filter. And by “lost his filter,” I mean he is saying things that sober, Japanese men simply don’t say. Whether it is hitting on passing women, arguing with the waiter, making fun of someone,  our otherwise acting outside of his character, it’s weird to see. At least in a Japanese man.

Ursinus College drinkingBecause in America, this is completely normal

Japan is actually the only country I don’t get hit on in. It is very relaxed; as a woman, I feel safe. As long as you don’t make eye contact, the chances of someone talking to you are slim to none. They only people who talk to me in Japan are old men, foreigners, or (often socially awkward) Japanese people who want to practice English.

So when someone loses their filter and starts flirting with or talking to me, it’s a bit unnerving. It’s not bad; it is just overwhelmingly out of character that it strikes me as a bit bizarre. The most common people who “lose their filter” are young or middle-aged Japanese businessmen and businesswomen.

And Americans. When most Americans drink, they lose their filter. That’s pretty normal. That’s how a fair number of inner-college relationships and friendships start (and end).

3. The ones who can’t stop crying, yelling, or being loud and crazy

Last, but not least, are the “angry” or “crazy” drunks. These are VERY far and VERY few between. I’ve only seen a couple of these in Japan…

Last weekend, when I was coming home at night, I saw a woman sitting in the middle of the road (with bars on either side). She was clutching a broken high heel and bawling like a baby. Her friends (also drunk), were sitting in a circle with her either shushing her loudly or just kind of staring blankly ahead. While my friend and I walked past her, she leaned forward and kissed the broken high heel saying “You’re sooooooo pretty…”

It was pretty bizarre (but I completely understand the sadness you feel when your favorite heels break).

Cute High heels in JapanMy grandmother gave me these, if they broke, I might cry too. 

In another instance, a couple months back, I saw two men bump into each other. One spun around and started screaming at the other one. I couldn’t catch all of what he was yelling, but it mostly followed the lines “I’m going to kill you! Go die!”

It’s rare to see a complete breakdown in Japan, but it happens more often than one would think – especially when alcohol is involved. I personally think these breakdowns are healthy, but I know several people who disagree.

Buchele Family Just hanging out with my dad

In any case, if you were able to randomly pick 200 people from one of the last trains in Tokyo, I bet you would find one seething angry drunk (maybe), ten to twenty drunks who had “lost their filter”, and another hundred and fifty “quiet” drunks.

But that’s just my own personal opinion from riding one too many last trains in Tokyo.

(PS, does anyone else know of any drinking stereotypes in Japan? I’m curious.)

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele


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