Elderly Workers in Kamagasaki, Osaka, Sell Craft Beer with Great Success! A Miraculous True Story | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Elderly Workers in Kamagasaki, Osaka, Sell Craft Beer with Great Success! A Miraculous True Story

Nonfiction writer Kota Ishii approaches the reality of a "society of the elderly without connections.

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Kamagasaki (Airin area) in Nishinari-ku, Osaka City, was once famous as a town for day laborers.

We saw in Part 1: Background of Kamagasaki, Osaka “becoming the frontline of care and employment support for LGBTQ elderly” that this town has now become a frontline for the care of LGBTQ elderly people. In the second part, I would like to continue to introduce the field of employment support for the elderly from my book “Mukonenronen” (The Unmarried Elderly).

Once famous as a district for day laborers, Kamagasaki (Airen District) in Nishinari Ward, Osaka City.


In the previous part, we explored how this area has become the forefront of care for LGBTQ elderly individuals. Now, in the latter part, I would like to introduce the scene of support for employment among the elderly, continuing from my book “Unconnected Elderly.”

In some liquor stores in Nishinari Ward, there is a beer called “Riot Beer (Nishinari Riot Ale).” It has suddenly attracted attention as a support program for elderly individuals with disabilities in Kamagasaki.

When you mention Kamagasaki, some people may have the image of “riots.” At its peak, Kamagasaki was said to be home to as many as 20,000 laborers. They were underpaid by job brokers and engaged in harsh physical labor while accumulating resentment.

During the 1960s to 1970s, such stress exploded in the form of riots. These were known as the “Nishinari Riots” and are said to have occurred at least twenty times.

However, those energetic laborers crowding the area are a thing of the past. Now, they have also become elderly, living on welfare or leading lives akin to homelessness, enduring a difficult old age.


“We must keep trying!”


In such a neighborhood, the company “cyclo” was born in 2008, specializing in caregiving services.

The representative, Masanori Yamazaki, was originally an employee of a company engaged in caregiving services. When that company went bankrupt, Yamazaki, who was the area manager for the region including Nishinari Ward, decided to establish Cyclo. One of the company’s initiatives was to support the employment of individuals with disabilities.

However, conducting business in this area was not easy. Among individuals with disabilities, there were many facing issues such as the aftereffects of methamphetamine use, alcohol dependence, and schizophrenia. Initially, efforts to support employment by opening cafes or holding bazaars did not go smoothly.

During such times, a man with mild intellectual disabilities spoke up.

“I used to make sake around here in the old days. I can make good sake. People in Nishinari drink from morning till night. This place is a town of alcohol. If the president (Yamazaki) makes sake, I’ll sell as much as you want. Let’s give it a try!”


As an experiment, Yamazaki purchased 500 bottles of beer from a company in another prefecture through OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) arrangements, relabeled them, and enlisted about 15 people living in Nishinari to engage in sales activities.

Surprisingly, the 800-yen beer sold out in just a day and a half. Since they frequented bars daily, they had various connections in the liquor industry, which they utilized effectively.

They all exclaimed,

“Mr. President, if it’s alcohol, we’ll sell as much as you make!”

Afterward, Mr. Yamazaki procured 500 bottles of beer through OEM arrangements on four occasions, and they all sold out within a day. The individuals who sold them earned up to 30,000 yen per day.

Based on this experience, Yamazaki concluded that the men in Nishinari could make a significant impact in alcohol sales. Thus, he obtained a loan from the bank and opened a brewery in Nishinari Ward in 2018.

He explained:

“All the guys in this area love alcohol, and they take pride in earning through it. That’s why they genuinely enjoy brewing and selling alcohol, and earning wages from it boosts their confidence. Many people say their lives have changed because of their involvement in this business.”

One individual whose life changed due to this business is introduced here: Hayato Toyama (alias, in his 60s).

Originally, Toyama had worked as a manual laborer in Kamagasaki for many years. However, after getting married, he fell ill and couldn’t work anymore. Unable to make ends meet even with welfare assistance, he turned to becoming a methamphetamine dealer. There were many yakuza members in this area, and Toyama would ask them to supply methamphetamine, then conduct the drug deals in groups of three (a lookout, a seller, and someone to help the seller escape).


The gangs would then work in teams of three (a guard, a dealer, and a trafficker on the run) to distribute the drugs.


The illegal sales job brought in a decent income, but Toyama was constantly worried about getting arrested. If he, with a wife and children, were to be arrested, the whole family would be left destitute. However, it was too late for him to find another job.


One day, one of his associates decided to quit the illegal business. He mentioned that there was a company called Cyclo that was engaged in craft beer sales, and he was going to work there.


Upon hearing this, Toyama also wanted to work at Cyclo. When he discussed this with his wife, she happened to know about Cyclo from the news.


“If it’s Cyclo, wouldn’t that be good? Even if the income decreases, you should work there.”


Toyama went to the yakuza office, explained the situation, paid a few tens of thousands of yen as severance, and was allowed to leave the group. And so, he started working at Cyclo.


Currently, Toyama is earnestly engaged in the craft beer sales business and supports his wife and children with his income.


Yamazaki states,


“What I realized when starting the craft beer business is the importance of allowing users to do what they want to do or what they have been doing. Most of the users who come to us have acquired disabilities due to alcohol or drugs rather than congenital disabilities. In other words, they used to work vigorously when they were young. That’s why they feel guilty or their hearts become rough when they can’t do that anymore.


In that case, I want them to regain their pride in living independently in society by doing what they want to do or what they have been doing properly. If they can do that, I believe they can face forward and live their lives no matter how old they get.”


People living in Kamagasaki each have their own life experiences. What’s important is respecting those life experiences and figuring out how to engage with society in various ways. That’s what truly meaningful employment support is all about.


Cyclo’s craft beer business gained momentum after winning the silver award at the International Beer Cup in 2018.


Currently, they sell various craft beers, including the aforementioned “Riot Beer.” And who’s selling them? It’s the people living in Nishinari.

  • Interview and text Kota Ishii

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