While the legal drinking age across the nation is 20 years old, Japan is pretty lax with its regulation of beer, wine, and spirits. As such, alcohol is readily available at convenience stores, supermarkets, and specialty alcohol stores.
Alcohol is taxed like all other consumer products in Japan at 5%. The costs for alcoholic products at stores are “reasonable” at about US$3.00 per can of beer, US$20 ~ US$30 for a decent bottle of wine, and US$15 ~ for spirits. It’s somewhat of a different story in popular bars, with most drinks costing between US$8.00 and US$10 per drink.
While the Japanese do produce some of their own alcoholic beverages, wines made from grapes are not known to be top quality. Rice wine (“sake”), on the other hand, is internationally renowned for being a light yet complex beverage that can be enjoyed either hot or cold. The Japanese also brew some phenomenal beers, some of which are good enough for export around the world including Sapporo Black Label, Yebisu, Kirin Lager, and Asahi Super Dry. And while it was previously thought that Japan’s whiskey’s were second rate, some Japanese scotches have scored highly in international taste tests including Suntory’s Yamazaki scotch, and Nikka’s Yoichi scotch.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol can be purchased across the city in most convenience stores (beer and other related Japanese beverages such as Chu-Hai in particular, but some spirits are also available as well). Discount stores like Costco (http://www.costco.co.jp/) and Don Quijote (http://www.donki.com/), offer a variety of wine and spirits at fair discounts to what can be found in traditional supermarkets. And while there aren’t many specialist stores in Tokyo, two of importance include the Yamaya (http://www.yamaya.jp/) chain of liquor stores, and Enoteca (http://www.enoteca.co.jp/) which specializes in wines from around the world.