Why is This Hiroshima Guy’s Glass of Beer So Superb?
Before answering that question, let’s take a brief look at the history of Japan’s post-war liquor liberalization. Until the 1970s, a local liquor store delivery guy would visit each household and take an order. Many people over 50 probably remember those regular visits. This order system no longer exists. A study conducted in 2012*3 may have been able to explain why.
When Japan’s private sector started to sell liquor after the World War II, a licensing system was introduced. Later, the liquor tax law was revised to restrict new liquor stores from entering into the market. This system continued through the 1980s. Under the system, each liquor store had its own territory, such as one store per 1,500 people in a big city, or one per 750 people in a rural town. This explains why a delivery guy used to visit each house. Even in 2000, the rapidly-increasing convenience stores were not allowed to sell liquor. But a turning point arrived in 2003. In that year, regulations under the licensing system were removed, allowing convenience stores and supermarkets to sell liquor. Due to the deregulation, discount liquor chain stores and online liquor stores mushroomed. People came to buy what they wanted at a store, both on- and off-line.
The 2012 study also mentioned that the number of liquor stores decreased even though the number of liquor licenses increased every year*4. Since then, the price competition has been continuously fierce. By 2007, traditional liquor stores had to face a severe situation. And this wasn’t limited to liquor stores: the number of small stores had dropped drastically by 2007*5. But Japan’s population almost peaked at 128 million at that time*6. This means the consumption volume did not shrink, but the style of consumption and shopping had greatly transformed. The crisis for Japan’s small shops came to a head in the latter half of the decade, which partly contributed to the generation of the so-called “shuttered shopping streets” that can be seen today in many regional towns.
Yutaka’s liquor store was also not immune from deregulation. The store’s sales from 1989 dropped to about half in 2003, the deregulation year. By 2012, sales fell to less than half. Yutaka’s beer stand opened that same year as part of his revival measures.
“I can’t win against major supermarkets when it comes to selling liquor. But I’m confident in being the best in telling people about liquor,” Yutaka said. “My mission is to educate people about beer and to increase the number of happy people with the power of beer.”
The gift of his that he discovered at that time of crisis lay in providing the best way to taste beer and creating fun communication through liquor. His beer stand has been yielding results, picking up the sales of Yutaka’s store over the past three years. His belief that tasty beer can solve human difficulties is finally proving true.
In addition to his beer stand, Yutaka presides over “Hiroshima Draft Beer University” at which he instructs restaurant owners and staff in how to pour more tasty beer. He also travels across Japan to give lectures on beer. In March, he was invited by a chamber of commerce in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which also suffers as the result of aging society and depopulation, and gave a lecture on how to develop the town’s economy starting with a glass of draft beer.