Big (only) in Japan? Beer salesgirls

March 24th, 2010 by Daniel Morales

beergirl

A beer uriko hard at work at the Waseda-Keio baseball game.

This marks the debut of a series where we ask “Big (only) in Japan?” We have a hunch but we want to hear from you. Have you seen this outside of Japan? Let us know in the comment section below.

In Japan, the end of March brings warmer weather, cherry blossoms and the start of the baseball season. Opening Day for the Pacific League was on March 20, and the Central League opens March 26. Lead by self-organized cheerleading teams, the crowds will chant elaborate cheers and songs (often a different cheer for each player), wave flags, jump up and down, and in the process work up a serious thirst for an ice cold beverage.

Enter the beer salesgirl – in Japanese, biiru no uriko (ビールの売り子). In Japan, “Hey, beer man!” will not only earn you strange looks because you are yelling in English – additionally, no men serve beer at baseball games here. The task is instead performed by young women who wear special backpacks that contain a miniature keg of beer. Dressed in short shorts and team uniforms, they move throughout the stadium seats, serving fresh beer right off the tap to reenergize the hordes.

On Yahoo Japan, a user posted a list of questions about the position: How old are the girls? Is there an age limit? How do they choose what beer to sell? Are they chosen for the position based on their looks?

A former beer salesgirl responded with a detailed tell-all. The girls themselves are usually between 16 (first year in high school) and 24 years old. For whatever reason, the former uriko states, when the girls get to around 25, they no longer have the stamina for the work. The work is hard, you see. The technical name for the device the girls wear is a bia shorudaa (literally, “beer shoulder”), and the backpack, keg, cups and snacks combine to create a burden of 13 to 15 kg (around 30 lbs). The uriko even claims to have lost 4 kg (8.8 lbs) while working a single game!

Uriko are hired directly by the beer companies they sell for. In 1997 these companies changed the uriko uniform from long pants to short shorts, which supposedly resulted in a dramatic boost in sales. Because the new uniforms emphasize the shape of the girls’ lower bodies, apparently looks do factor into whether a girl is hired or not. In the end, the uriko says again, it’s hard manual labor, but it does provide the opportunity to make lots of friends.

On the goo portal’s sports question-and-answer section, a soon-to-be uriko asked users What do you look for in an uriko?” Some provided constructive ideas: Serve beer when our team is in the field, not at bat. Don’t pass me by if I’m waving. Don’t stand in the middle of the aisle when you’re pouring. Don’t force me to buy a snack set with my beer. Be friendly and energetic.

One user provided a different sort of list:

“Conditions for the uriko I often buy beer from at baseball games (mostly in Yokohama):
1. Hotties (lots of makeup so they stand out, even from far away)
2. Costume (mini-skirts and short shorts are the best) looks good (though sometimes the stadium chooses the uniforms)
3. Pour the beer nice and close to me (getting a slight whiff of your perfume is incredible)
4. Good customer rapport, nice responses to customer
5. Giant boobs (this is just my own personal taste)”

Clearly, these beer uriko stand out even in Japan. Beer uriko, we salute you. This post is for you, and all the hard work you do.

To see how quickly these girls work, check out the following YouTube video of beer uriko going into the pit to change their kegs:

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10 Responses

  1. I went to a ball game in Tokyo once, and the ‘beer’ ladies circled us like sharks. We didn’t complain. In fact, it made for a more memorable experience. for anyone traveling to Japan, a ball game is a must.

    stay adventurous,
    Craig

  2. The beer carrying itself with such a big backpack is not new. In Holland at many rock concerts this can be seen as well. I was amazed because they were carrying a full backpack with a beer pump and a filling pistol so you can have a”moving around” draft beer from one of these girls. I only don’t know if its were only girls (I only saw girls in Holland) or maybe an occsasional boy as well….

  3. How much do the kegs weigh?

  4. The kegs are very small soda kegs. Can’t give an exact weight, but they are not very heavy.

    The article above says that “no men sell beer at baseball games here”, but that is not the case.

    While keg-carrying beer salesfolk are nearly always female, the same can not be said for those selling cans and bottles of beer and happoshu. At Jingu stadium, for example, bottled-beer is sold exclusively by roving male sales staff.

  5. Depending on the stadium there are quite a few male beer vendors. Chiba Marine has a few who carry kegs, and last time I was in Kyocera Dome at least 20% of the keg-carrying beer vending staff were male.

    What’s even more impressive is how they can survive the different weather conditions throughout the year wearing the same uniform. Last night was Chiba’s home opener and it dipped down to 5 or 6 degrees or so. These hard working ladies were wearing the same outfits they would be wearing in August heat. I asked a vendor friend of mine if she was cold; she paused and said “Very, very cold.” Salud.

  6. Pellegrini and Steve: I wonder if guys manning keg backpacks is a recent phenomenon – the last time I went (admittedly a while back), it was definitely all women. And if it is a recent phenomenon, I wonder why things have changed. More options? Less women willing to do the work?

    Another question: Do they make the dudes wear short shorts? I think/hope not.

  7. I think there are many types of beer vendor management companies. I’d say the job is not really restricted to girls, rather it was started out as young boys part time jobs with high salary. Sometimes those who manage these vendor staff are actually the same companies that run food stands at the event venue. There may be vendor staff hired for some promotional campaigns in which there is no male staff. Believe it or not, almost all atheletc events are male dominant (in natural way) so I unerstand that they want to have more girls staff to sell beers to their male customers.

  8. “5. Giant boobs (this is just my own personal taste)”

    Glad to see this remark made it in here. As it is, I just don’t get enough creepy, hentai-directed sexism while reading about Japan on the internet. Thanks for setting the bar a little lower for us all!

  9. Nakore – I hope you didn’t mistake that as my own personal opinion – I was translating part of a 2ch post. Here’s what the original Japanese looks like:

    1 美人(遠くからでも目立つよう化粧は濃い目がいい)
    2 コスチューム(ミニスカートかショートパンツがベスト)がいい
      (球場によりユニホームが決まっていますが)
    3 かなり近くで注いでくれる(ほのかな香水のかおりがすれば最高)
    4 愛想がいい 返事がいい
    5 巨乳(あくまで私の個人的希望です)

    And the original link: http://oshiete1.goo.ne.jp/qa4934671.html

    The uriko does a great job of deflecting the comment – she says “That’s a comment you’d expect from a man! … 1, 2 and 5 might be a little difficult, but I’ll try my best for 3 and 4.”

  10. I went to Giants vs. Lions game this season at Tokyo Dome. The most impressive thing was the beer girls as they are the best athletes in the stadium! Those pony kegs they carry on their backs are heavy and they never stopped moving up and down stairs the entire game. Most are cute with happy smiles. But I later met a friend of a friend who was beer girl for Carps when she was 19. She said it’s good money but really hard work and she got tired of dealing with men staying stupid/moronic things to the her. She said they smile all the time but inside they are not happy dealing with some of the nonsense.

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