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The Story Behind Kirin Beer Labels

Beer Labels Depicting the Legendary Kirin,
Said to Bring Good Luck

The kirin depicted on Kirin Beer labels is a legendary creature derived from ancient Chinese myths and is said to be a harbinger of good luck. A Chinese legend says that when Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, was born in 6th century B.C., a kirin appeared before the eyes of his mother. When Kirin Beer first came out in 1888, beers imported to Japan had labels that featured animals such as cats and goats. Japan Brewery Co., Ltd.—the forerunner of Kirin Brewery—chose also to use an animal as the central theme for its beer label.

Kirin Beer label from 1888
Kirin Beer label from 1889

Japanese Kana Letters for Kirin Embedded in the Label

A close-up of Kirin Beer labels from 1933 to the present day reveals that the three tiny Japanese kana letters for "ki," "ri" and "n" are embedded in the mane of the kirin depicted in these labels. We do not know exactly why this started: Some say the graphic designer who created the original 1933 label may have simply added an amusing touch to the design, while others claim it was an attempt to prevent forgery of the labels.

Today's Kirin Beer Label
Close-up image of the mythical animal

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© 2007 Kirin Holdings Company, Limited.

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