Although Japan might be famous for sake, the beverage most people order when it’s time to relax after a hard day’s work is beer. Beer has been brewed in Japan since 1870, when Norwegian-born William Copeland came to Yokohama to seek his fortune and founded what would become the first successful beer brewery in the country, which eventually became Kirin. (It’s popular to visit his grave in Yokohama and leave cans of beer as an offering.) Today the market is dominated by the “big four” breweries of Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory, and in accordance with standard Japanese business practices, these companies also sell everything from processed frozen foods to bottled tea. (Can you imagine buying iced tea bottled by Coors?) These companies have strong affiliations with other companies in the same financial group (zaibatsu, see above), for example Kirin is part of the Mitsubishi Group, related to companies like Yasuda Seimei Life Insurance, Nikon and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. I have a friend whose father works for Kirin, and the man as a strict policy against giving money to any business that isn’t part of this umbrella of companies.
Some thoughts on the beer industry in Japan.