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The History of Kirin The Turbulent Prewar and War Years(1928-1945)

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Japan was in a deep depression, demand for beer remained stagnant, forcing beer companies to sell their products below cost in an attempt to win market share from others and keep production afloat. This practice threw the beer market into turmoil and squeezed beer companies' profit margins. To prevent things from getting worse, Kirin Brewery, DaiNippon Beer, and Nippon Beer Kosen concluded a government-sanctioned cartel agreement to fix beer prices and production among them in 1928, and Sakura Brewery joined forces the following year. However, this stabilization of the beer market was short-lived; Nippon Beer Kosen and Sakura Brewery withdrew from the cartel and returned to their pre-cartel production and pricing practices. The beer market became increasingly irrational when bargain-priced beers hit the market.

In 1933, DaiNippon Beer absorbed Nippon Beer Kosen and unsuccessfully attempted to merge with Kirin Brewery, which agreed to co-establish a joint beer sales company with DaiNippon Beer. Sakura Brewery also co-established a sales company with the joint sales company. The establishment of these sales companies enabled beer companies to voluntarily coordinate production and sales, bringing stability to the beer market.

Over the following several years, beer production in Japan had continued to rise to meet robust demand in Japan and abroad. Kirin Brewery built another beer plant in Hiroshima and a plant to produce bottles in Tonda; it also built beer plants in Korea and China. The company set a prewar record in beer production in 1939.

As Japan shifted to a rigid wartime economy in the early 1940s, beer production came under tight government control and beer was placed on ration. All beer companies were ordered to use identical beer bottles with generic labels that prominently showed only "Beer." Kirin Brewery halted producing bottles in its Tonda Plant when the government imposed consolidation of small and midsize businesses. When the government notified beer companies in May 1945 that no beer would be distributed starting September of that year, Kirin Brewery stopped preparations for brewing in all its beer plants except the Kanzaki Plant.

Kirin Brewery Hiroshima Plant
Generic beer labels from 1943

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