Here at BeerTengoku, we believe in bringing people to drink together and talk over a few pints of craft beer. We may not agree with what makes craft beer, what constitutes a good beer, or even if a beer is any good or not. However, one thing that we can all agree on is that everyone should be treated equally and with respect.
Women make up 50% or so of the population of Earth – give or take a few hundreds of million people. Japan makes up 127,000,000 or so of that population, with a female to male ratio standing at roughly 0.95. That means for every female in Japan, there are 0.95 males1, which means Japan has a population of 66 million females vs 61 million males or so. An important statistic that we’ll come back to later on.
While times are changing, with more and more women remaining in the workforce, or reentering after childbirth, some things do not change. Household finances are one of them. Japan is very different to other countries, besides the oft-told-myth of Japan having four seasons.
In Japan, the wife is usually the head of finances – something that is often long talked about and is a very different custom, compared to other developed nations. The husband tends to work full time hours, sometimes staying late in the office as he tries to out-sleep his coworkers to show how hard he is working. The salary for all that sleeping goes to the house account, where he then is dealt a monthly allowance by the wife, who has carefully calculated the outgoings and balanced them to ensure the kids can go to school, everyone is fed, and all are sorted for the month.
Even though roles are showing signs of changing, some things still persist in Japan and that is advertising. Women are still used as advertising tools, be it from your clothes, house hunting, toys, family stuff, right through to more dubious circumstances such as beer modelling. While the former are usually done tastefully or are often intermixed with both sexes, the latter still needs a lot of work. Drastically.
Starting with the perhaps least condescending. Some breweries advertise their beers towards women with a belief that the sweet, gentle beers are more suited towards a woman’s palate. Some misguided notion that the bitter, hoppy kick to the face can’t be handled by such nice people. Yet go down to your local bar and you’ll see men drinking weizens and women drinking IPAs. Go even further afield and you’ll see women drinking imperial stouts and imperial IPAs too.
Beer bottles. While Japanese breweries do tend to lack with imaginative designs, some of them really do need changing. Shonan Beer Tsuma and also Barbaric Works Lick Me All Over use the naked female form to advertise their beer. The former features a full frontal nude of “an Oiso wife”, while the latter features a topless nude of a women with her tongue sticking out. Something that is truly unnecessary and smacks of an immature approach to their customers. While the bottles may be eye-catching and a talking point, it’s more than likely going to be towards a negative turning point, bringing negative impressions on the brewery.
While some may find that offensive, it does get worse. The big four breweries are known for producing posters each year, with bikini clad girls drinking their beers. Perhaps they hope that this will appeal to people to drink their beer. Does it work? Who knows. The big four produce so much beer that it seems like a moot point to use this way. However, Bay Brewing Yokohama have also taken this same approach. Go to any off their bars, and you can find their model posing with their beer. Does it convince me to drink the beer? No. Does it convince me to tell people about their beer? No.
So now we’re getting warmed up – the posters of bikini girls modeling a beer is outdated and out-fashioned but fewer breweries are using that idea to advertise their beers. Yet it still gets worse. For those who went to the Japan Brewers’ Cup then you know what’s coming up. “Entertainment” we shall say. While we all love some music, it should be appropriate to the surroundings. You wouldn’t really play thrash metal in your office at full volume as others are trying to work, unless you work at Rolling Stone? So why are there idol bands cavorting around stage at a craft beer festival? That’s right, using women as an advertising tool to encourage people. It’s a weird underbelly in Japan where grown men seem have a thing for teenage girls dressed up to the nines. And that’s before we get onto the pole dancers. Why are there pole dancers at a craft beer festival? Seriously? We get that it is a skill unto itself; however, I can’t really think of many actual reasons for having pole dancers at a craft beer festival unless you’re trying to attract people to your craft beer festival…
It’s important to note that not all breweries do this in Japan, with some taking inspiration from women and using them in a positive form. Examples are Locobeer that produce an annual beer towards the Pink Boot series and Baird Beer with Four Sisters Springbock, Saison Sayuri being two examples of breweries that are being inclusive rather exclusive. Minoh Beer, Harvestmoon, and Oriental Brewing are just three of the breweries that have head female brewers. With a potential domestic market of 66 millions females (well let’s ignore some of the underage drinkers for now), why bother alienating them, when you could be encouraging people to drink?
1 – https://knoema.com/atlas/Japan/topics/Demographics/Population/Male-to-female-ratio