Local Treasures

(8) Daishichi’s Advertising Boards

Yeast “Talking about local treasures, today our topic is about the nostalgic advertising boards standing in the fields with the text ‘Sake is Daishichi.’ Do you know them?”
Kimoto “Of course! With the distant green of the hills as background, the large, white cut-out characters of ‘Sake is Daishichi’ stand out clearly. Also for me, that’s a nostalgic scene.”
Yeast “How large are they?”
Kimoto “There are two types. The ones standing along the paths in the fields with a mixed forest at the back, are square and 4 meters large. And the ones standing on the sides of the distant hills are 6 meters.”
Yeast “6 meters! More than 4 times the size of a person. How have they been set up? I guess you can’t reach the steep forested slopes by car!”
Kimoto “It’s difficult to imagine today, but the employees of Daishichi would climb the hills carrying the wood for the boards on their back. They set up the advertising boards by themselves, and also maintained them.”
Yeast “When was the first of those boards set up?”
Kimoto “In 1935, now more than 80 years ago. It started when the 8th Generation bought the first Datsun truck in Fukushima from the Nissan sales outlet. He would load the wood in this truck and drive around to negotiate with the owners of the land, one after another setting up the boards. As small trucks were rare at that time, before you knew it the children from the neighborhood would be hanging on the back of the truck.”
Yeast “I can see that scene before my eyes. But how did the 8th Generation get the idea for the advertising boards?”
Kimoto “Through his characteristic way of thinking. In the period of shortage of goods just before and after the war, all sake easily sold out even without advertising, so many brewers were satisfied with that situation and stopped doing their best. But the 8th Generation believed that the time would come again that customers would prefer certain brands above others. So he did his best to improve quality and increase publicity about Daishichi as a brand name.”
Yeast “Yes, a wise motto of the 8th Generation was ‘The brand is an asset which is free from inheritance tax.’”
Kimoto “Today that’s called branding. The advertising boards ‘Sake is Daishichi’ are visible from the windows of trains on both the Tohoku main line and the Shinkansen line. As they pop up again and again when the scenery changes, children made it a game to count them. As they were part of the scenery of Northeastern Japan, many people said ‘When I see those boards, I feel I have come home.’”
Yeast “How many advertising boards were there in all?”
Kimoto “At one time there were more than 250, from the south of Iwate prefecture all the way to Saitama prefecture. There are still several black-and-white photos left of steam locomotives letting out clouds of white smoke while running in front of hills with ‘Sake is Daishichi’ advertising boards.”
Yeast “Wonderful! But today there are not many left.”
Kimoto “The times have changed. What once was hilly scenery, has now been developed. The Shinkansen and expressways have been built, and the forest has made way for housing. The hills with free nature which formed the background of the advertising boards have dwindled in number. So Daishichi has made a decision.”
Yeast “What decision?”
Kimoto “To close the book on the so popular advertising boards together with the end the 20th century. In the present century, they were removed and only a few were left as a memento. Daishichi thinks that in the present age symbiosis with nature is more proper.”
Yeast “I see. But the nostalgic, tranquil scenery still lives on in everyone’s memory!”