Although foreigners think sake is the Japanese alcohol, most common alcohol is definitely beer in Japan.
Recent years, many micro breweries had been opened and having a great success, there are only 5 breweries which are sold nationwide. Then, one of them is Orion beer which has the biggest share in Okinawa islands due to their breweries are located only in Okinawa.
The other 4 breweries have their own beer factories nationwide.
The biggest one is Kirin, which major product is Kirin Ichiban shibori. Then Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory follow. Before 80s, Asahi's share was much less than Kirin, but thanks to the Super Dry, their share rapidly grew and once exceeded Kirin.
Japanese beer system is very unique. Due to relatively high tax on beer, breweries introduced an alcoholic beverage called HAPPOSHU. HAPPO means bubbled or sparkling, and SHU means alcohol. HAPPOSHU are made from different ingredients than beer, the breweries did not have to pay as same tax as for beer. Which means the price of HAPPOSHU is cheaper than the beer. On the other hand, the taste itself is quite similar to beer.
However, the haven for breweries doe not continue. Japanese government amend the tax law and tax rate for HAPPOSHU went up. Which means the price must go up too.
What is next? The breweries created another alcoholic beverage called DAISAN NO BIRU(THE THIRD BEER). Again using different ingredients.
Anyway, selling cheap alcohol is very crucial for breweries. Consumers prefer cheap alcohol, which means that the turnover can be high but very small profits. Of course fierce battles among breweries to dominate the market still exist.
By the way, pubs and restaurants offer only the real beer. If you want to taste the HAPPOSHU or DAISAN NO BIRU, please buy at your nearest supermarket. You will notice immediately the price difference between beer and DAISAN NO BIRU. Then, it is legal to drink any kind of alcohol from the age of 20.