Q Why are drunks tolerated?

A It cannot be denied that the Japanese aretolerant toward drunks.In a family-structured type of society like Japan, associating with others is essential to maintain good human rela-tionships. It is difficult to turn down an invitation of one's own volition and many Japanese end up going drinking with one' s co-workers, but at the same time, drinking with like-minded friends is a pleasure.

There are some who have had a little too much to drink and make a nuisance of themselves, especially on trains. People pretend not to see them for they feel that they are not in a position to pass judgment when they themselves have done something to be ashamed of. Compared to Westerners, the Japanese have a predisposition to a lower tolerance to alcohol. A state of drunkenness arises when alcohol converts to aldehyde and affects the nerves and blood vessels. Alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts alcohol to aldehyde, is atypical in 80% of the Japanese in that aldehyde is produced too quickly.

Furthermore, 50% of the Japanese belong to the slow-reacting type II form of aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme that makes aldehyde harmless. Whites and blacks belong to the fast-reacting type I form of aldehyde. In other words, the Japanese get drunk faster and stay drunk longer.