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: