It's halfway through January and finally the yearend excuses to drink are done with. There was Christmas, then New Year's Eve, then shōgatsu (Japanese-style New Year), which is more or less a three-day period of constant drinking. At this time, it's customary to try to cut down on alcohol as we recover and contemplate our lifestyles.

Many of us foreigners living here know deep down that we and many of our friends are at least mild alcoholics, masking each other's addictions, and the allure of alcohol is not an easy monkey to get of your back. It's difficult in any city, though living in Tokyo provides its own unique set of problems

There are number of reasons for this. One is the Alice in Wonderland effect: Away from family, peer groups and all those usual things you use as benchmarks for normality, you find yourself not really held back by pressure to be "normal,"' as it doesn't exist anymore — at least not as you knew it. After all, you're not just an ordinary guy, you're the "traveler"; not only that, but you're living a holiday. You drink and soak it all in, and there is a joy to feeling that you can create your own rules.