Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
I have been in / heard of situations where refusing a drink could be considered mildly impolite--> rude--> deeply insulting. But it was almost exclusively in places where making wine/beer/other alcoholic beverages is part of the culture. Not the industry or the market, the culture. In such a community, alcohol consumption is a lot more that having a few kicks, it's a rite. Of bonding, mostly. And rites have rules.
In most of your examples (except for the home made one), you can normally substitute the alcoholic drink for any beverage. At a wedding for example, the bride and groom won't usually mind what you're drinking when the toast is made, as long as you raise something (bridezillas aside).

About the only exception I can think of is when it's a more a hazing ritual and you're expected to get absolutely hammered in order to 'prove' yourself to the group.
This is more likely the case when you're out with friends that you don't know particularly well (close friends won't care what you drink unless they're a bit of an idiot), or when it's a outing of solely males or a hen night.

Quote Originally Posted by HeadlessMermaid View Post
This is where it gets complicated, because for some cultures (or specific people) it's reasonable to stop drinking at point A, for others it's at point B, and for others only passing out will spare you the obligation. Is it limitless like that in Japan, at least in some occasions? Possibly. Another possibility is that the author of that book simply didn't drink enough to find out.
I suspect it's more specific people as while drunken behaviour is tolerated to a degree in Japan (I believe somebody made mention of the culturally accepted way of addressing issues only while drunk), you're not expected to get absolutely falling down drunk.

From what I know of Japanese drinking culture (at least for semi-formal occasions), there's etiquette involved, such as making sure your guest's cup is never empty, thus if your guest has poor self control, it may well end up being limitless by accident.

Judging from the reviews of the book, the author may be somewhat prejudiced in his views, for whatever reason.