Buying Booze in Japan: Supermarkets

Buying Booze in Japan: Supermarkets

 Japan is a nation of drinkers. Well, maybe not as much as some other countries out there, but lots of people in Japan enjoy drinking alcohol. There are of course those who may not even like it, but have to drink it on a regular basis due to work related obligations. I’ll talk about those work related drinking activities and obligations in another post.

Spirits (hard alcohol) can be purchased pretty much anywhere you go and you can get your hands on it 24 hours a day if need be. Japan is a convenient country and that goes for buying booze as well.

Although you can buy alcohol such as whisky, gin or vodka at the multitude of 24-hour convenience stores located throughout the country, I’m going to focus on buying it from supermarkets in Japan.

Part of a spirits section at a supermarket in Kobe, Japan.

Every supermarket has an alcohol section. They are typically divided into sections for beer, Chu-hi style coolers, wine, traditional Japanese alcohol like shochu or sake and of course the section for spirits.

Sake (Nihonshu) in a supermarket in Kobe, Japan. Since a lot of sake is produced in Kobe, a large portion of this section is dedicated to locally brewed sake.

Although I personally don’t drink spirits (never did like the taste), I often stop at this section in the supermarket just out of curiosity.

One of the things that caught me off guard when I first moved to Japan from Canada was the price of hard liquor. It is MUCH more affordable than in Canada. The taxes on spirits in Canada are far higher. For example, a bottle of Canadian Club Whiskey that is imported from Canada is much cheaper in Japan than in Canada. You would assume that since it’s an imported good it would be at a premium price, but that’s not the case. Good news for you out there planning to visit or live in Japan if you like spirits.

Imported whisky in the spirits section of a supermarket in Kobe, Japan.

Most supermarkets have some spirits, but of course if you live in a larger urban area and the supermarket is big, the selection will be much more extensive.

By far, the most popular spirit in Japan is whiskey. Imports from America, Scotland and Canada are big, but what some people may not know is that Japan produces some of the best whiskey and single-malt scotch in the world. You can try some at a relatively affordable price if you buy it here in Japan.

Japanese whiskey

Shopping for spirits at a supermarket in Japan is the way to go. It is of course much cheaper than buying them at a convenience store where you pay a premium for that convenience.

Not all spirits are equal. These are 4L jugs of a supermarkets “home brand” whisky. The price is cheap. VERY cheap!

When you’re in Japan, check out a local supermarket and see what they have to offer. Also remember, you have to be 20 years old to legally purchase and drink alcohol in Japan.

Be safe and happy drinking!



The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.

Follow him on Twitter: @madformaple




  1. In my first few days in Japan, while walking down a very rural (read small) shotengai in my city, I found Vodka for five dollars. I bought it quickly and stashed in my freezer for the planned festivities that night. I guess I had paid attention because it was “light” vodka at about 20%. Part of it was frozen by the time I finished teaching for the night.
    I went to the local discount liquor store for my next purchase.


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