A cold one for Koji: Analyzing Uehara's beer commercial

February 24, 2014 - 11:23 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was an offseason of relative obscurity for Koji Uehara. Despite his remarkable accomplishments, when he returned to Japan, the extent of the celebrity garnered for emerging as a history-making closer was a published book and an opportunity to do a couple of beer commercials for Suntory Premium Malt's. "Please try it!" Uehara pronounced (via translator C.J. Matsumoto) on Monday. The commercials can be seen here. Courtesy of Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History Andrew Gordon and Dr. Theodore Gilman of the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies at Harvard University, here's a description of the substance of the playful 30- and 60-second spots. Both open with Uehara claiming that, on his way from the ballpark to the hotel after the game, he'd very much look forward to downing a cold beer. (In the 60-second version, he allows that the beer represented a daily self-reward for being able to play and stay healthy.) He also suggests that there has been conversation about the Red Sox -- who Uehara says stock three postgame beers -- adding a fourth beer, this one from Japan; if such a landmark development were to occur, Uehara says, he would choose Suntory. Near the end, Uehara describes the beer as "saiko" -- meaning the best, a term that implicitly characterizes not just the beer (which, after all, declares itself to be "Premium") but also the pitcher and his team. The longer version of the commercial also has Uehara reflecting happily on a sip of his beverage and wondering rhetorically, "Isn't Japan terrific?" -- an inquiry evidently inspired by the quality of the beer. The beer's other endorsements on the page come from a former figure skating star (Junko Yaginuma), a sommelier (Yoichi Sato), a prominent composer (Jo Hisaishi) and some celebrity chefs -- not exactly the prototypical "tastes great/less filling" crowd of endorsers in the States, perhaps suggesting that Uehara is regarded as a worldly sophisticate in his native land. Of course, in a time of The Most Interesting Man in the World, it is also certainly possible that Uehara has achieved such status in Japan.