Ban on Street Drinking: Fundamental Decorum Must Be Observed

A basic requirement for enjoying the consumption of alcohol is to not cause trouble to others. To prevent people overseas from getting the impression that Japanese people are ill-behaved drinkers, it is hoped that efforts will be made to improve drinking manners.

A revised ordinance that imposes a year-round ban on street drinking in areas around Shibuya Station in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, has been enacted. It will come into force in October. The existing ban is limited to the time during events for Halloween in late October and New Year’s Eve, but the period and locations subject to the ban will be expanded under the new regulations.

The current ordinance was enacted in 2019. The move came after areas in Shibuya fell into chaos during the previous year’s Halloween with problems, including an incident in which intoxicated young people and others overturned a small truck, resulting in the arrests of some of them.

The aim of the ordinance was to improve drinking manners, but the situation did not get better. The subsequent COVID-19 pandemic brought about the spread of street drinking by those who could not drink at bars or restaurants.

The ordinance was revised apparently because street drinking became a common practice, and problems resulting from it such as littering and excessive noise cannot be overlooked.

In Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, an ordinance that prohibits street drinking around Shinjuku Station during Halloween has been established. Previously, there was little basis for warning people who drink or shout on streets, but it will become possible to take action based on the ordinance.

Both the Shibuya and Shinjuku ordinances do not impose penalties for violators, but if their effectiveness proves to be poor, the introduction of penalties may become an issue to consider in the future. It is also possible that more municipalities will seek to establish similar ordinances.

The behavior of some foreign tourists also has been viewed as problematic.

During patrols on the Shibuya Center-gai street located in front of Shibuya Station, the daily number of people who were reprimanded for drinking on the street on Fridays and Saturdays and before holidays in May was 163.3 on overage. Foreign nationals accounted for more than 70% of the total.

Many photos showing people drinking on the streets in Shibuya and Shinjuku and drunken people falling asleep outdoors have been posted on social media.

In some countries, drinking itself or drinking in public is prohibited. In contrast, it is said that some foreign travelers mistakenly believe that drinking and making noise on the streets is allowed in Japan and even visit the country for the purpose of doing such things.

If the situation is left unchecked, this could result in a deterioration of the image of Japan and the Japanese people. The central government is striving to attract foreign tourists. If so, local governments should not be left alone to handle the negative issues that accompany the increase in the number of foreign visitors.

It is necessary to publicize Japanese drinking manners and proactively disseminate information asking people to comply with the manners.

Moderate drinking can sometimes help people relieve stress and facilitate communication. However, it is hoped that people are aware that this can be true only if they drink in moderation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2024)