Why High-Alcohol Chuhai Drinks are Disappearing in Japan

Unseen Japan
5 min readFeb 21, 2024

Maybe they’re not so Strong: once-popular high-alcohol chuhai drinks are disappearing in Japan due to a mounting health backlash.

Picture: Graphs / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

By Himari Semans

The notorious Strong series consumed for a cheap pregame on nights out in Japan is disappearing from shelves. After years of health professionals decrying the series for its adverse health effects, many manufacturers are now saying they’ll stop selling the products for good.

Why you might see zero Strong Zeros soon

On February 19th, the Ministry of Health released guidelines sounding the alarm on drinking. New findings say a single long can of beer raises risks of colon cancer.

The warning follows Asahi Beer and Sapporo Beer’s respective announcements of plans to end new product lines of canned chuhai (fruity alcoholic drinks made with shochu or vodka) with 8% or more alcohol.

“We haven’t announced this as a company, but our plan is to not sell new products with an alcohol percentage of over 8% moving forward. However, we will continue the sales of our current products,” Asahi Group Japan told Business Insider Japan.

“Taking into consideration the increasing awareness of health and the latest trends, [our decision to not sell new strong series] was the result of comprehensively discussing the portfolio of our ready-to-drink (RTD) products,” Sapporo Beer responded.

Kirin Beer has begun talks to determine the future prospects of its own Strong series.

The Strong chuhai boom (and then bust)

The demand for the Strong series of chuhai began to increase around 2010, popularized as a way to get drunk cheaply.

Asahi joined the Strong series market in 2010, following the beginning of sales for 8% alcohol products by Kirin in 2008 with Hyōketsu Strong and Suntory in 2009 with Strong Zero.

“Under the concept of ‘exciting but refreshing,’ we began developing products like Asahi Sparks that were 9%…