Brewed in Japan: The Evolution of the Japanese Beer Industry


Although Japan’s beer industry dates back nearly 145 years, this is the only book in English to document its origins, growth, and evolution. Spanning the earliest attempts to brew beer to the recent popularity of local craft brews, Brewed in Japan charts beer’s steady rise to become the “beverage of the masses.” 

Alexander sheds light on the advent of Western-style taverns and beer gardens, the control of beer production by Japan’s Ministry of Finance during the Second World War, the rapid rise in women’s beer consumption post-war, and the continued dominance of long-surviving firms like Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo. Brewed in Japan underscores the highly receptive nature of Japanese consumers, who adopted and domesticated beer in just a few generations, despite its entirely foreign origins. Featuring an array of Japanese sources, this book further illustrates how post-war marketing campaigns and shifting consumer preferences made beer Japan’s leading alcoholic beverage by the 1960s.

Excerpt on beer's growing popularity:

"By the early twentieth century, beer found its way into urban taverns, hotels, and traditional inns and teahouses, where for many years it remained the province of the relatively wealthy. Slowly, Japanese of means came to accept and to enjoy the taste of beer, and many establishments earned prestige from serving this unique Western beverage. Given beer’s comparatively high cost, brewers were obligated to target a wealthy clientele at the outset. In order to showcase its wares to Japan’s ruling class, Sapporo shipped its first batches from Otaru Harbour directly to government bureaucrats, senior military officers, and members of the royal family. These elite consumers enjoyed the new product, and they ordered more. Clever brewers like Magoshi Kyōhei likewise targeted their early marketing efforts toward Japan’s new professional classes: doctors, scholars, and entertainers. Magoshi staged free tastings and tours at his brewery in Tokyo, confident that these celebrities and emerging technocrats would lend an air of sophistication to beer consumption. As these talented and educated modern figures returned to their respective corners of Japan, they brought with them not only knowledge of beer, but often a continued demand for it. Still, though it was brewed in Japan, beer’s prestige was derived from its undeniably European heritage, which demanded strict adherence to quality ingredients and German purity laws."

What People are Saying...

“Considering the significant position beer assumes nowadays in the Japanese consumption practices, a thorough historical treatment is long overdue. We urgently need this book.”

-- K.J. Cwiertka, Leiden University and author, Modern Japanese Cuisine: Food, Power and National Identity

“The story Alexander tells is a fresh one, intersecting with important themes in Japan’s modern history (from the process of “borrowing” from the West to the growth of the consumer economy) but novel and revealing at every turn. Brewed in Japan is a striking new addition to the field and engages with many of the most widely debated issues in Japanese economic and social history.”

-- William Tsutsui, President of Hendrix College and author, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters

“While many studies look at a snapshot in time, or a particular period in Japanese history, Alexander takes us through a century of change and development of the beer industry. Making excellent use of the company records, Brewed in Japan provides us a portal into the changes to the business environment that have driven and sometimes buffeted Japan.”

-- Thomas W. Roehl, Western Washington University and co-author, Mobilizing Invisible Assets

Brewed in Japan is available on Amazon!

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