Business manners

Why Beer Brand matters when having a dinner with Japanese clients?

“Cheers!” in Japanese is “Kanpai!”, with that the Japanese drinking night starts. It is called “Nomi-kai” when you have a dinner with your Japanese clients (in this case drinking beer is almost always expected), and common way to win the trust of Japanese clients. Although Nomi-kai is popular way for socialization with Japanese, there are some taboos that is not known among foreigners, or even among Japanese.

Why Beer Brand matters?

There is one story about Beer brand and Japanese Social Taboo. One guy organized restaurant for his Japanese clients, but when the boss checked the menu of restaurant, he immediately let him cancel the restaurant and change the place for meeting. Why? Because the restaurant offers only beer made of specific company, which is known as competitor of his client’s group. For the understanding, the historical background should be shortly explained. Japanese Conglomerate form is known as “Keiretsu”, and they strongly connected each other. Keiretsu originally appears before WW2, when Japan starts the industrialization, at that time Japanese industry was dominated with four conglomerate, “Mitsui”, “Mitsubishi”, “Yasuda” and “Sumitomo”. These are, however, dismantled after WW2 by American government but the strong connection among specific company remains even after WW2. The group, embodied more than 100 years ago, still remain the power and partnership each other, but not officially. There is a rule therefore, the company from specific Keiretsu Group heavily prefers to enjoy the service or products from same groups. I shortly illustrate the table which company group belong and prefer which beer brand.

Beer Brand Keiretsu Name Companies
Kirin Mitsubishi Company name with “Mitsubishi”, Lawson, Tokyo Marine, Meiji Yasuda insurance
Asahi Sumitomo Mostly company name with “Sumitomo”
Sapporo Fuyo Nissan, Mizuho Bank, Hitachi, Taisei, Sompo, Saison, Canon
Suntory Sanwa Aioi, Sekisui, Toyo, Nomura, Hankyu

That means, if you have a dinner with Japanese clients which belongs to the specific Keiretsu group noted above, it is not Must, but strongly recommended to order the beer brand from same Keiretsu Group.

Kirin

Kirin is one of the famous beer brand in Japan, or even in overseas market prominent. The products are named “Kirin Beer” and also producing Umeshu and whiskey (Fuji-Sanroku).

Adopted from official Kirin Site

Asahi

Asahi helds Nr.1 market share in beer market in Japan. As well as Kirin, Asahi provides various alcohol, beer, whiskey (Taketsuru, Yoichi) and umeshu.

Adopted from official Asahi Site

Sapporo

Both Sapporo and Yebisu Beer belong to Sapporo brand. The headquarter is located in Yebisu station, center of Tokyo and Yebisu beer is named after the place.

Adopted from official Sapporo Site

Suntory

Premium Malts, Master’s dream, and Yamazaki whiskey are representing Suntory Brand. Especially the restaurant where you can drink Premium Malts is limited since the company select only high-quality restaurant for that.