Beer Wars

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far away… Well, actually, it wasn’t that long ago and it’s only a country far away. But then again, for most folks, Japan is so far away, it might as well be another galaxy. There is an entrenched group of greedy government officials. The evil officials are making every attempt to crush a rebellion going on by the poorly funded regular Joe six-packs of Japan in their attempts to slip by the Death Star of high taxes and drink cheap booze….

This is the story of that rebellion…. The story of Beer Wars.

In an effort to get around paying the greedy Darth Vader of Japanese Beer taxes and his minions of star-trooper tax collectors, some smart beer companies in Japan started manufacturing a new type of beer called “Happoshu” — which in English translates into “Bubbly liquor.”

Death Star enforces a high tax on regular beer in Japan. By using less malt and more of other ingredients, the rebels got around Japan’s legal definition of “beer” — a malt content of 66.7% or higher — they lowered the malt content, and they created Happoshu. Happoshu sells for about 1/2 the price of regular beer with the same alcohol content.

At first the evil empire did not notice that the rebels were avoiding paying high taxes by switching to Happoshu. Two years ago, Happoshu captured 20% of the beer-drinking market. Last year it took almost 40% of the market. That’s when Death Star and the evil empire began to take notice.

Things really began to get out of hand for the greedy money grabbing star-trooper tax collectors when the son of the current Prime Minister of Japan, Junichi Koizumi, starred in a massive nationwide TV campaign selling Happoshu. The commercial was a smash success and Happoshu sales really started to skyrocket. It is rumored that this really upset Koizumi as he is actually, in fact, Darth Vader himself… The father of the spokes-man of the Happoshu rebellion!

Japanese Prime-Minister’s 23-year-old son in Happoshu TV commercial

When Happoshu sales really started to crack sales of real beer, the evil empire began to see their tax revenues fall drastically. This problem was exacerbated when many famous Rock musicians began going on TV and saying that they’d rather drink Happoshu than beer. I became a Jedi warrior and joined the rebellion too when I found out that Happoshu costs about $1 dollar cheaper per can!

Happoshu looks like beer, smells like beer, and tastes almost like Japanese beer; but legally it’s not beer. It’s a bit more watery than Japanese beer, which makes it taste like American beer.

It’s also healthier for you than regular beer. My doctor told me to stop drinking beer and whiskey a while back. He also said that wine wasn’t so good for my liver either. He recommended Happoshu — which also has about 1/2 the calories of regular beer, and also Sho-chu. Sho-chu is a Korean liquor somewhat like Vodka. So whenever I go out to a restaurant now, I drink beer and when I drink at home, I drink Happoshu.

Of course, everyone wants to drink real beer. Japanese beer tastes really good. I think Japanese beer and Mexican beer are the best. But during these lean economic times, Happoshu is better for the family budget. And at the same alcohol content, I can pickle my liver for less.

Now that Happoshu has become one of the major players in the Japanese beer market, it has launched an aggressive promotional plan with every manufacturer trying to grab a bigger share of the new market. This has lead Darth Vader to try to change the law and increase taxes on Happoshu to make it about the same price as beer.

But the rebellion lives on! With greater sales, the Happoshu manufacturers have gained more money, and with that, greater political clout. The rebels blocked completely the first two attempts by the evil empire to raise the taxes on Happoshu. The third time, that traitor, Jabba-the-Hut, arranged a tiny tax increase which Yoda accepted as a compromise now to head-off any future tax increases.

But we rebels must ever stay vigilant. The evil empire will continue to make attempts at destroying our successes with Happoshu. But with the same alcohol content as regular beer, at much less the price, Happoshu has shown Japan’s Joe six-pack that we can defeat the Death Star of high taxes.

Throw in the on-going cut-throat price war and razor-thin profit margins the manufacturers desperately need and this will keep the rebels and Happoshu’s price below real beer for a long time to come.

The evil empire’s biggest fear is that the Happoshu rebellion will spread to other lands. American beer manufacturers, the road has been shown to you. Will you take up the sword of justice and stand with the rebels and the people? Or have you gone too far to the dark side?

If you ever get the chance to drink Happoshu, by all means, do so. A few cans of that and you too will definitely feel the force.

Long live the Happoshu rebellion!

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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