A commonly used expression in Japanese is futsukayoi, or second day drunk which means having a hangover. Drinking is an important part of the cultural fabric of Japan. It is done to socialize with friends and family, to forge bonds between co-workers, to seal business deals and to determine the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. Some Japanese love to drink, others might enjoy the occasional drink, while others simply cannot tolerate a drop of alcohol. Yet, there comes a time when all need to partake in this traditional aspect of Japanese life. In fact, people who choose not to drink at all may be looked down upon with mild suspicion. Drinking might be be felt as a social obligation but is also one of the rare moments when these same social rules can be broken.
When it comes to Japanese alcohol, there is a lot of confusion about the use of the term sake. Sake in Japanese is a generic term that designates alcohol and does not refer to Japanese rice wine in particular. In Japan, rice wine is called nihonshu which means Japanese alcohol. Japan also traditionally distills alcohol from various fermented starches in ways similar to the one used to make vodka. The product of this distillation is called shochu (lit. burned alcohol) and it has, in the last few years, taken a growing place in Japan’s drinking habits.