Liquor Sales Industry

Do you have a passion for Japanese alcoholic drinks? Are you eager to share your own country’s beverages with people in Japan? Have you tried to apply for a liquor license but aren’t sure how to proceed with negotiations with the National Tax Agency? At Support Gyoseishoshi Law Firm, we can help you with all of the above and more. With legislation surrounding alcohol sales prone to change, trying to keep up to date with the most recent amendments can be a full time job. Changes in the law may mean that an application for a license that was perfectly acceptable once month has to be completely reworked the next. Below, we provide a basic introduction to liquor licenses, application requirements and some general points to be aware of. For up to date information, please contact us directly for a free consultation session.

Liquor Licenses

The following is an outline of the various liquor licenses which exist in Japan.
License Permitted Activity
General Retail Liquor License General liquor sales (excluding those detailed below)
Wholesale Imported/Exported Liquor License Sale of imported/exported liquor
Mail Order Liquor Sales License Sale of alcohol online, through a catalogue or other similar service
Special Liquor Sales License Any sale of alcohol which does not match any of the above activities (e.g. selling alcohol to employees)

Liquor Licenses: Points to Remember

  • A General Retail Liquor License is a widely held liquor license that can be used for most kinds of liquor sales. However, it cannot be used for activities such as selling alcohol online or selling to other alcohol dealers, so it is important to establish which kind of license you need before starting your business.
  • When buying alcohol from other traders, this must be done from a licensed wholesale dealer.
  • Hotels, restaurants and other similar establishments often do not require separate liquor licenses in order to provide alcohol to their customers as part of another service (e.g. alcohol served along with restaurant food).

Basic Requirements

The following are the main requirements for a General Liquor License, but are generally common to all liquor licenses. N.B. These are general requirements and do not necessarily reflect the reality of what may be needed for your specific application.


The applicant (or in the case of a corporation, the company directors) must not meet any of the following exclusion criteria.
  1. Having had a liquor license, liquor manufacturing license or other related license revoked due to violation of regulations.
  2. Having been the director of a company up to one year prior to said company having a license revoked as described in requirement 1. In the case that the applicant meets this criterion, 3 years must have passed since the license was revoked.
  3. Having been disciplined for failure to pay either national or regional taxes within the 2 years prior to application.
  4. Having received a written notification or fine for violation of national or regional tax regulations the disciplinary action of which came to an end within the last 3 years.
  5. Having been fined for violation of the Minor Drinking Prohibition Act, Act on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business, Act on Prevention of Unjust Acts by Organized Crime Group Members, the Penal Code、Law Concerning Punishment of Physical Violence and Similar Acts within the last 3 years.
  6. Having been sentenced to imprisonment or another more serious sentence within the last 3 years.

Site of Liquor Sales

The location in which you carry out liquor sales must:
  • Not be in the same place as a restaurant, bar, licensed liquor manufacturer or licensed liquor trader.
  • Be clearly separated from other commercial operators.


The applicant must:
  • Be correctly paying national and regional taxes.
  • Not have been suspended from making bank transfers within the 1 year prior to application.
  • Have an amount of loss brought forward the last financial year that is less than the amount of capital.*
  • Have losses of less than 20% of capital within the last 3 financial years.*
  • Have or have clear plans for management systems enabling the operation of business in accordance with liquor taxes.
  • Have sufficient ability and knowledge relating to liquor sales. (N.B. Specific requirements can vary between areas of Japan and depending on recent changes to the law.)
  • Have sufficient funds and facilities with which to carry out the sale of liquor.
*Applies to corporations only.

Response to Demand

The applicant must:
  • Not, except for in exceptional circumstances, be intending to sell liquor to the members of the company or organization acquiring the license.
  • Not be running a bar, hotel, restaurant or other similar hospitality business.

Special Requirements for Other Licenses

As a rule, the above requirements apply to all liquor licenses. However, there are some exceptions. For example, for Imported/Exported Liquor Wholesale Licenses as well as Mail Order Liquor Sales Licenses, it is generally necessary to submit documentation showing existing agreements regarding the trade of alcohol. You may also need to submit documents showing consent for you to use the premises in which you intend to sell alcohol. The license with the most additional requirements is the Remote Liquor Sales License, which comes with requirements such as the following. ・Alcohol must be targeted and sold to more than one prefecture. ・For alcohol produced domestically, the manufacturer is not allowed to conduct remote liquor sales if they ship more than 3,000 kilolitres of taxable alcohol per year. This means that when purchasing alcohol from domestic manufacturers, you must acquire and submit proof that they do not meet this condition. No such restriction exists for alcohol produced overseas. In addition to the above, there are also requirements concerning the layout of the website or catalogue from which alcohol will be sold, including warnings regarding underage drinking. For all types of liquor license, however, it is not possible to say exactly what kind of documents or application strategy will be best suited to each individual or company. This is where our expert knowledge and experience comes into play.

For any queries about Japan’s liquor sales industry or about how to establish your liquor sales company, please do not hesitate to contact us!

*Please be aware that the contents of this site are naturally subject to change, meaning that we cannot guarantee their accuracy at the point of access.* *For up-to-date information, please contact us directly.*  

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