What Does Asahi's Interesting HQ Ornament Say About Japanese Commitment?
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
Here at Hotpot Spot, we want to raise a glass to Japanese culture (and celebrate the Olympic Games). So, we've set up a university! Enrolling in our 'Totally Legit Japanese Language Course' is completely free - and all graduates get a certificate to take home. You also have the chance to win a FREE large bottle of Asahi Super Dry - Japan's no. 1 beer. If you want to join Hotpot University's Class of 2021, the details are at the bottom of this article. Good luck!
In Japanese culture, work is a significant part of life. When a company takes someone on, it is rare for them to change or leave that job, even in their lifetime. Japanese people tend to take their work much more seriously than people in the West (where people often expect to have several jobs in their working life).
Many people in the West keep their work and personal lives separate - this isn't quite the same in Japan. Work colleagues will often visit an izakaya (a type of informal bar) after work. Over drinks, they'll share their complaints about their company!
Nemawashi (根回し) is a Japanese term that translates literally to "going around the roots". The term 'nemawashi' describes the first stage in a company's decision-making, involving all employees.
To preserve harmony, companies make sure that everyone has their say during negotiations. This balanced approach means that union strikes are rare in Japan - decisions seem fair, and employees are listened to. The downside is that things are slow to happen: everything is debated at length. Because of the democratic system, companies rarely go back on their decisions: when a choice is made, it is set in stone.
So how does this relate to Asahi?
Asahi wanted their headquarters to represent their success (and their beer). So, in 1989, they hired an acclaimed French designer to create such a building. The official statement said: "Asahi Beer's burning heart as it leaps into the new century."
The problem was, the 'burning flame' on the Asahi Beerhall HQ didn't look much like a flame... It looked more like a giant golden poo!
If that happened in the US, it would probably last 30 minutes before the CEO shouted into their phone to "take that s%*t down!". However, in Japan, they'd talked it through and had decided as a company. They didn't go back on themselves, and the turd stayed up.
How long did it stay up? 30 years!
Bear in mind, their building was not known locally as the Asahi Beerhall, but as 'Unko-biru' ('the poo building'), or even 'Kin no unko' ('the golden turd'). They didn't like that label, but it stuck.
In 2017, the golden poo was missing from the Tokyo skyline. For some, it was a sad day. For others, it was a relief - the building made their area seem like a joke. Had Asahi finally taken down their infamous symbol?
No - the poo had just been covered for restoration work. Asahi had decided to give it a clean for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. This proves the Japanese commitment to their decisions, while also debunking the myth that you "can't polish a turd".
So let's raise a glass for the nemawashi, and the Giant Golden Poo in the sky.