J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
Issue No. 439 Wednesday November 7, 2007, Tokyo
Alcoholism In Japan
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One of the most alcohol friendly countries in the world, Japan
has a strong drinking culture, ranking 6th in the World for the
largest consumption of beer after China, the U.S., Germany,
Brazil and Russia. From 'Settais' (business dinners) to
'Bounenkais' (end of year parties-or literally 'forget the year'
parties), all social occasions in Japan require a large
consumption of alcohol to fit in with your peers.. According
to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey in 2002, nearly
50% of men habitually consume alcohol
So it wouldn't be surprising to hear that alcoholism is on the
rise in Japan. The latest statistics show that the problem
drinking rate in Japan currently stands at roughly 2.4 million according
to the National Hospital Organization, Kurihama Alcoholism Center.
Even Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, the 61-year old cousin of
Emperor Akihito, has admitted that he suffers from alcoholism
after repeated hospitalization for the problem. 'I am Prince
Tomohito, dependent on alcohol," he said at a speech in July.
He went on to say that 'I have been drinking alcohol since my
days in university and am dependent on it, so I find it rather
surprising that I am seen to have been hit by it now.'
Dr Hiorakai Kono, former director of the National Institute of
Alcoholism in Tokyo, told us that 'there is no question that
alcoholism is increasing in Japan.' However, he goes on to say
that 'what astonishes us is the size of the problem.' It seems
that alcoholism in Japan has largely been an undetected problem
and whether there is enough spotlight and support available on
the issue now is something that needs to be looked at thoroughly.
Dave Milne, an expert on alcohol related problems in Japan, says
that 'although alcohol consumption is now decreasing in most
industrialized countries, it has quadrupled in Japan since
1960.' However, according to Milne, Japan still 'lags far
behind Western countries in recognizing and treating alcoholism.
Fewer than 1200 hospital beds are available for alcoholic
patients, and the country's two national mental hospitals
provide only 200 beds. Private treatment centers are becoming
more common, but no medical credentials or accreditation are
required to operate them.'
Of the 2.4 million alcoholics in Japan, only 23,800 of them are
reportedly having treatment.
Moreover, it is very hard to admit someone into an alcoholism
clinic - even if it is a very severe case and their
families and friends are in danger. The alcoholic patient
would either have to decide to get help and admit himself
into hospital or their families would have to take the
drastic action of forcefully committing them to a mental health
institute. We spoke to a relative of an alcoholic, Tomomi,
who told us of her problems dealing with the Japanese system.
The alcohol dependent person was in a state of complete
dependency, consuming at least a 2 liter bottle of 'shochu'
(strong Japanese liquor) a day. He would often, in his
intoxicated state, lash out at the people around him, causing
a severe threat to others as well as himself. Upon calling the
police, they replied that 'Unless he actually severely hurt
someone, we would be unable to intervene in a domestic such as
this.' The first hospital Tomomi took him to admitted him
for one night for malnutrition but, despite the dangers and
the threats of abuse from the alcoholic, released him the
following day. Tomomi rang all the other alcoholism specialist
clinics and they all said that the patient would have
to admit himself and they would not be able to contain him.
Unfortunately, the alcoholic was in complete denial and refused
to go into such a place. Because of the dangers of living with
him, Tomomi decided that the only action to be taken was to
have her relative committed to a mental health institute, a place
that did not specialize in alcoholism and the only thing they
could offer was prohibiting any alcohol intake and some general
counseling. After 4 months, the alcohol dependent relative left
the institution and quickly resumed drinking again.
Clearly, there is a lack of support for alcoholics and their
families in the Japanese system. However, what, if any, systems
are in place for foreign residents in Japan?
We spoke to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Tokyo who have been in
Tokyo for about 50 years, supporting foreign residents in Japan
who either want help coming off alcohol or support in staying
sober once treated for alcoholism.
Currently, they hold meetings on average twice daily in Tokyo
with more at the weekends. They can also hold Skype meetings
for those who do not live close by. Most members are originally
from the US, Canada and Australia and about 80% of the members
seek the AA for support in staying sober after having already
come off the alcohol. Nick E, the public service relations
officer for AA Tokyo finds that most members complain of
'Japan's social obligations to drink, and the ease in getting
liquor,' as well as the fact 'that drunkenness for a man is
often blamed on the spouse for not keeping him in line.'
However, Nick also stresses that as well as feeling solidarity
with one another due to sharing an alcohol problem, with AA
Tokyo, 'there is definitely an ex-pat camaraderie.' Speaking to
a member and former alcoholic, John, he told us he was able to
get sober in Japan after having failed in the US. 'Stopping
drinking is hard anywhere…but if you really want to stop, you can
do it whatever country you're in.'
By Anna Kitanaka
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--------Marcus Evans Events - Supported by J@pan Inc-------
Date :27th - 28th November, 2007
Venue: Hilton Tokyo Hotel
1) Creative Advertising and Media Marketing Strategy
This event features leading case studies from Fuji Xerox, KDDI
Corporation, Nissin Food Products, Kubota and Nihon Michelin
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2) Quality Sourcing and Strategic Procurement
Come listen to best practices and case studies from renowned
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'J@pan Inc readers are entitled to a 10% discount upon
registration with Ms. Esther Wong.'
For further details and brochures, please contact:
Ms. Esther Wong
Tel No: +603 2723 6736 Fax No: +603 2723 6699
Email add: email@example.com
Benefitting The Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer
November 8th, 2007, The Westin Tokyo 6pm - midnight
Mingle with international sport and entertainment celebrities
including Grammy-award winning-lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Australian
cricketing legend Dennis Lillee, Japan rugby coach John Kirwan
and Japanese cyclist Fumy Beppu and more!!!
A triathlon of games, fantastic auction prizes and delectable
delicacies from Japan and the world presented in a matsuri
atmosphere will make for an extra-ordinary dinner experience.
28,000 per person including dinner and drinks.
------------------ ICA Event - Nov 21 ---------------------
Event: Recent Trends in the IT Job Market -
Essential Insights for IT Career Management
Overview: A Round-Table Discussion with Industry Specialists
Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
Date: Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Light buffet, beer, wine, soft drinks
provided courtesy of ISG
Cost: 3,500 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)
Open to all - venue is daynight in Otemachi