Japanese Research Fits Themester Topic
Published: September 8, 2014
Associate Professor of History Dr. Jeffrey Alexander presented "Brewed in Japan: The Evolution of the Japanese Beer Industry," Friday, Sept. 12, at the Indiana University East Asian Studies Center Themester Colloquium.
Alexander's book of the same title was released in June 2014 as a co-publication by the University of Hawai'i Press (United States), and the University of British Columbia Press (Canada and international).
Each year, the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences organizes a Themester (THEME-ester) and invites speakers who possess significant scholarly or creative credentials. This year's Themester, "Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Art to Science," engages faculty and undergraduate students in the exploration of ideas across disciplines.
Summer Research in Japan
To further his research, Alexander spent three weeks in Japan this summer thanks to a fellowship from the Japan Foundation (JPF), a Japanese agency supported by the country's Ministry of Culture, Sports, Science, and Tourism (also known as MEXT). To earn the fellowship, scholars from leading universities in the U.S. applied to the JPF New York office. Applications were reviewed by experts in the field, and finalists were screened by the JPF headquarters in Tokyo.
Alexander conducted the majority of his research in Japan's national parliamentary library, known as the National Diet Library.
"My time in the Diet Library and at the Suntory distillery near Kyoto enabled me to uncover dozens of valuable sources that are available nowhere else," Alexander said. The documents shed light on the early postwar origins of Suntory, which have not been explored in depth in English.
"Suntory, the chief domestic distiller, faced significant hurdles in the very lean postwar era," Alexander said. "It managed to redevelop the market for 'Western spirits' through a brilliant marketing campaign aimed at Japanese salary men (white-collar male workers). My research included discovery of postwar advertisements and articles written by the key company players who made this marketing and sales revolution possible."
Today, Suntory Holdings Limited is the world's third largest spirits producer, and its acquisition of Jim Beam was finalized in April.
Study Aboard Tour 2015
Alexander plans to present his latest findings at a conference in Tokyo in June 2015 following his third study abroad tour with UW-Parkside students. "Our study tour is entitled 'Doing things the Japanese Way.' It is an opportunity for our students to discover how the Japanese work, travel, interact, organize their cities, preserve and study history, and use resources as efficiently as possible," Alexander said. "Whether it is exploring cultural sites or sharing a meal with Japanese college students, this process of discovery teaches our students as much about themselves and their own way of life as it does about living in Japan."