The online contest titled “Sake Viva!” asks young people to submit their ideas for getting the younger generation to spend more money on booze. The tax agency is reportedly worried about a dwindling liquor business, especially after COVID pandemic shutdowns, and wants young people to help “revitalize the industry” according to the contest’s website.
“The domestic alcoholic beverage market is shrinking due to demographic changes such as the declining birthrate and aging population, and lifestyle changes due to the impact of the new coronavirus infection,” the “Sake Viva!” website states. “In this project, by asking young people to propose their own business plans, we will appeal to young people for the development and promotion of Japanese alcoholic beverages, and at the same time, we will revitalize the industry by announcing excellent plans.”
In 2021, the Japanese government raked in $1.18 trillion yen, about $13 billion U.S. dollars, from national liquor taxes. That number was up from 2020 revenue, but the annual tax revenue from liquor sales has been slightly decreasing since 2013.
According to the contest rules, only people between the ages of 20 and 39 are eligible to compete. The National Tax Agency wants contestants to focus on developing a plan related to “Japanese alcoholic beverages (sake, shochu, awamori, beer, whiskey, wine, liqueur, etc…)”
Participants are also asked to consider new methods of promoting business to young people, such as “products and designs based on new lifestyles and changes in tastes due to COVID-19,” and establishing sales through AI and the Metaverse. Finalists will be selected at the end of September and advance to a final tournament in November.
Japan’s government encouraging young people to drink seems to go against a prior plan that promoted measures to curb unhealthy drinking. Just in the last 10 years, the country adopted a plan to fight societal and health problems related to consuming alcohol, NPR reported.
The contest has sparked debate among many in the country as the government has been criticized for promoting alcohol consumption among young people. “The National Tax Agency’s campaign ‘Sake Viva!’ has already become a hot topic overseas, and has been introduced as ‘weird Japan,’” journalist Karyn Nishi wrote.
“If the government wants to support the sake and beer industries, it has to be more serious,” Nishi added. “In developed countries, it is considered a good thing for young people to avoid drinking, so only Japan is in the opposite direction. It cannot be ignored that alcohol is dangerous.”