#4 From rock bottom to success? by Hiroshi SAKURAI
"Learning sales at one of Nada’s sakagura"
In 1973, Asahi Shuzo's sales were the highest in my father's generation. That year, I joined Nishinomiya Shuzo (now Nihon Mori), crafting sake in Nada. It was one of Japan's leading sake-making companies. I applied there just because I happened to see Nishinomiya Shuzo in a recruitment guide at college, I wanted to study sake over there, before taking over the family business. During the job interview, I did not say my father was running a sakagura, I lied and said he was just a normal employee at a normal firm. I guess I was afraid I'd be rejected if they found out. After joining the company, I was assigned to a branch in East Japan as a sales representative.
At the time, rumors circulated that when oil would run out, so did detergents made from it. Liquor bottles could no longer be washed. So, one wholesaler, I was in charge of in Gunma Prefecture, decided to purchase a large amount and store a lot of sake bottles, to avoid a stockout. It was my first year in the company, and my sales growth rate was the highest in my Division. I received a tremendous amount of praise for that. It was beginner's luck. The following year, sake sales began to decline and remained stagnant. My qualifications were questioned, as sales did not increase. I went from door to door trying to sell, asking for help. At the end of every month, I would sit in the wholesaler's offices and get, saying that we didn't have enough orders for the month. That wasn't going to help, but there was no other way.
Then one night, I got a phone call from Reiko, a classmate I had been dating in college. She asked me when I was going to marry her. I met her in a large amphitheater classroom at the university. I was sitting in my seat when someone kicked me from behind. As I turned around and saw a girl. When asked about it, it seems as she wasn't aiming at me, she was just dangling her feet. Afterward, we started to go out with each other. She was the one who approached me actually, I was a bit shy back then. She also seemed shy to me at first, but she was the type to be speak her mind. She was just right for me, a timid “Nobita”.
After graduation, she had returned to her parents' home in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. I would sometimes wonder if I would marry her. But I was so busy during my first year in the company that I would always postpone giving it a real thought. So when she phoned to ask me to make a decision, I finally made up my mind. We got married on May 5, 1974, in a community center near my family’s sakagura. Naturally, I invited my bosses to the reception, that's when they learned I was the son of a sake-making producer.
At the time, changing one's wedding dress or suit at some point during the day was in vogue, but I was extremely resistant to it. I refused and wore a haori (Japanese wedding garment) from the beginning to the end. But, halfway through, I had to go to the bathroom to take a leak. The problem was that I couldn't just walk out of the ceremony. That's when I understood why people would change outfits during the reception. Now, I advise young people who are getting married to not be as stubborn as me and change their wedding outfits during the ceremony.