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21 Sep 2019 7:02
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  •   Home > News > International

    Japanese hoteliers shore up beer supplies ahead of Rugby World Cup

    With football fans set to descend on the Japanese prefecture of Oita for the Rugby World Cup, local hoteliers are following a stern warning from authorities to shore up their beer supplies, with one publican saying "fans drink about seven or eight times m

    Takuma Shin is Oita's beer baron.

    For Rugby World Cup fans, he might just have the most important job in the region — aside from the players of course.

    "I'm in charge of preventing a beer shortage," he said.

    With quiet, resolute determination, he takes his job very seriously.

    "Beer is one of the important things in omotenashi [Japanese hospitality]," he said.

    "If there's a beer shortage and that makes foreign visitors unhappy, we worry that they won't visit Oita again. So it's very important for us to make sure beer will not run out."

    Hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors are expected to arrive in Japan for the Rugby World Cup; Australians are likely to make up the second biggest contingent of international tourists.

    Many will come to Oita, where Australia, New Zealand, Wales and possibly England are all playing.

    "We've been told by the World Cup organising committee that foreign rugby fans drink about four to six times more than Japanese people, so we will need to secure at least that much beer," he said.

    Organisers have warned the city of the serious risks of running out of beer.

    At a Bledisloe Cup Test in Japan in 2009, some parts of the stadium ran out of beer before the match even started.

    And problems have persisted more recently as well. During a Rugby World Cup test event in north-eastern Japan, there were beer and soft drink shortages at the Kamaishi stadium.

    Organisers have attributed it to the fact it was a hot day — and say they have learnt much from it.

    "When beer has run out at past events, there have been huge complaints," Mr Shin said.

    "Because of cases like that, [tournament organisers] asked us to make sure we have proper measures in place — so we have really turned our mind to it and I am working on making sure we have sufficient supply."

    He has been working with the big Japanese brewers since last year to make sure there is enough supply coming in — and their response: "No problem."

    Privately, rugby officials are hoping that ensures there is enough beer so people do not switch to more alcoholic spirits such as Japanese sake or whisky.

    'It's an unimaginable amount of beer'

    MasashiSano's izakaya — or Japanese bar — is doing a roaring trade when we sit down for a beer with him.

    On this Saturday night, to the left are bankers, to the right band members — all with icy cold beer glasses and all having a great time.

    "Kanpai!" — the Japanese word for "cheers" — echoes throughout the tiny wood-panelled bar.

    When the World Cup rolls around Mr Sano is expecting to be inundated with rugby fans, and he is excited — albeit a little worried.

    "I've heard rugby fans drink about seven or eight times more than Japanese people," the Oita local said with a big grin.

    "It's an unimaginable amount and we're a bit lost about what to do."

    He normally offers an all-you-can drink package called a nomihoudai, but not during the World Cup because he just does not have room for all the beer he would need — nor enough glasses to put it in.

    "What should I do, close?" he laughs.

    "I really need to do something so that won't happen and everybody can drink fairly.

    "I want everyone to enjoy Oita, so I'll offer one glass at a time and stop the nomihoudai."

    But it's a very generous litre-sized glass of beer.

    He used to live in Australia and knows just how much Aussies can drink.

    "From my experience, they drink a lot," he jokes.

    "When I think about those memories, my regular amount of beer is not enough.

    "I'll be careful to have enough."

    'There's a sense of excitement and anxiety'

    Just down the road is Toshitaka Adachi's Irish pub.

    Tonight it is showing the local soccer team's J League match - but soon these TVs will be all dominated by the Rugby World Cup.

    "The soccer World Cup has been held in Oita before, but they didn't talk about beer shortages then," he said.

    "This time, every place has been warned, so there's a sense of excitement and anxiety."

    He said the only thing the local government had told him was: "Do not run out."

    So he is working with beer companies, wholesalers and bottle shops to ensure he can always get more supply at any time of the day.

    "Normally, we have four draft beer taps, but we'll bring in an extra three," he said.

    "We want to make sure the customers won't wait … I have heard threats that if we don't serve quickly they'll become violent, but I am sure this is a joke.

    "We will prepare so that doesn't happen and people can enjoy."

    As for the inevitable drunk fans, there is omotenashi [Japanese hospitality] for them too.

    "For the people who get drunk and miss the last train we've got temporary accommodation," Oita prefecture's MrShinsaid.

    "We're told that most of the rugby fans don't get violent, so we're not worried about that.

    But police will be prepared on the match days for whatever happens.

    There is a definite excitement in the town in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup

    Whether fans are celebrating or commiserating, Oita locals are promising there will be enough cold beer and warm hospitality.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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