Double click on the graph for readable version
Sometimes it is good to put things in context and this graph of the Japanese alcohol market, which I found tucked away in an old Kirin annual report while researching my book, gives bucket fulls of context if you look at it carefully. I found it invaluable and I thought some of the harder core Nonjatta readers might find it interesting (double click on the image to get a readable version).
The jumble of lines takes a bit of time to sort out but the graph not only shows the relative popularity of various alcohols but also traces the ups and downs of Japanese boozing back to 1962, which is really near the start of Japan's post-war free market (before the mid-50s, for instance, beer co's were still heavily regulated by Government quota systems).
Since the high point of the whisky boom in 1982, it has all been down hill for whisky. But remember that the decline of high volume, cheap whisky as lead directly to the current emphasis on high quality. The same sort of thing happened in Scotch whisky's long history. Also, remember that we are looking here at the volume of liquid sold: you would never expect whisky (with 37 per cent plus alcohol) to be rivaling beer sales by volume.
Notes on the graph: the most important thing to notice is the right axis/left axis distinction. Sake, beer and happoshu sell tens of times more volume than any of the other drinks. "Happoshu" and "new genre" drinks are beer imitations that exist because Japanese tax rather crazily encourages poor quality beer making. Beer appears to be in decline but, if you add in the imitations it is not quite that simple. "Chu-hai" are canned fruit and spirit cocktails (which are also are very cheap and tax light compared to beer). This is a 2006 graph. Almost all of those lines have taken a jump downwards over the past couple of years, most notably the "chu-hai" which appears to be rocketing in this graph. The only line that has headed upwards is the "happoshu/new genre" one. We live in straitened times.
Source: Kirin annual report 2006