Beer and Happoshu – Know the difference

There is beer and there is happoshu

When you go to the convenience store or supermarket in Japan you are presented with a wealth of different types of beer, but beware some are not what they seem.

As a rule of thumb if you want to make sure you’re buying real beer it should cost around 200 yen per 350ml can, if you’re looking at a can that’s around 140 yen, it’s happoshu!

Drinks fridges in Seicomart

Drinks fridges in Seicomart


To put it simply happoshu is a low malt or malt free alcoholic drink that falls into a different tax classification to beer as it lacks what makes beer, beer!

Happoshu has 25% or less malt content and some has no malt at all. Instead of using malt the flavour comes from malt substitutes and other nasty chemicals that are more likely to give you an awful hang over.

You are likely to get served happoshu at a budget restaurant or karaoke rooms that do all you can drink deals.

Still want to know more about Happoshu? Take a look at this Wikipedia page.

Happoshu cans in Seicomart

Happoshu cans in Seicomart


Japanese beer is great and possibly some of the best in the world, you will normally find the beer along side international brands that you know such as Heineken and Budweiser as well as the Japanese brands that are sold overseas.

Beer cans in Seicomart

Beer cans in Seicomart

Survival Phrases

If you want to be sure you’re drinking beer try and remember these essential survival phrases:

Is this happoshu? = Kore wa happoshu desu ka

Is this beer? = Kore wa biru desu ka

If the answer is “hai” (yes) to either of these questions you know what you have got.

I don’t want to drink happoshu = Happoshu nomitakunai desk

Final Thought

All this said many people enjoy a few cans of happoshu in the evening and the big drinks companies sell a lot of it.

Why try one night on beer and one night on happoshu, then tell us how you felt the morning after?

Always drink responsibly…

  1. Thanks for the info, was never aware of happoshu.

    Do they still make Strong7? That beer was pretty great..

  2. I haven’t found that happoshu gives me worse hangovers than “real” beer. Happoshu often uses corn instead of barley, but hat doesn’t mean it isn’t beer.

    I bet a lot of people couldn’t tell the difference between malt beer and happoshu in a blind test. I find Japanese beer quite bland, like American beers, in comparison to German larger. With this in mind, I don’t see the point in paying extra for “real” beer in Japan.

  3. Haha jack I don’t know who you hang out with but MOST Japanese can tell the difference between happoshu and beer and therefor most restaurants don’t serve it. Furthermore, on all the menus I’ve seen it lists the name of the beer served in the menu.

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