Like America, Japan loves baseball, maybe even a little bit more than the country that invented it. And while the game is played the same way, much else about Japanese baseball is incredibly different. For one thing, there is organized cheering almost the entire time, with songs and chants both for the home team and against the visitor. For another, none of the food served at the ballpark would look very familiar to an American fan, with eel, squid and sushi subbing in for traditional hot dogs and cracker jacks. Oh, and there is a lot of bunting for some reason. But one thing that is similar between Japanese and American baseball is the fan’s love of beer, the difference in Japan, however, is the way in which it’s served. Enter the biiru no uriko or beer girl.
While you can find almost anyone from all walks of life slinging beer at American stadiums, in Japan, this role is filled exclusively by young women. These uriko spend the entire game running up and down the aisles of the stadium with pony kegs strapped to their backs, pouring draft beer on demand into cups that they pull from a utility belt that’s wrapped around their waist. It’s an undertaking that requires the uriko to carry almost thirty pounds of weight as they traverse the stadium selling beer, making people selling beer in America look like whimps.
You identify the beer you prefer based on the uniform being worn by the uriko. These uniforms are usually incredibly brightly colored with shorts that are as short as sartorially possible and jerseys that feature a large logo of the beer their selling. And the reason urikos wear uniforms based on the beer they’re serving — instead of uniforms supporting the home team of the stadium they’re working in — is because they don’t work for the stadiums; instead, they work directly for the actual beer companies. Can you imagine what it would be like if you bought beer directly from Budweiser or Sam Adams at the game? We could easily imagine a fight breaking out between beer reps based on whose beer was actually “made the hard way.”
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But we must admit that the role does seem pretty chauvinistic. It’s even rumored that the women hired for the job have to adhere to beauty standards, and can’t work past the age of 25, which is gross. Despite these issues, Japanese fans, both male and female, seem to regard the biiru no uriko as much a part of the game as the actual players. During a typical game, you can find fans not only ordering beer from these women, but also having their picture taken with them. And the beer does taste delicious coming off of a keg instead of being poured from a bottle. That’s one aspect of Japanese baseball we should import to the U.S., just maybe without the chauvinistic beer girls – after all, this country already has Hooters.