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Katsuyuki KAWATSURA (Executive Vice President and Representative Director,  Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd.)

 

As a kid, he was “all play”

Mr. Kawatsura was born and raised in Senri, Suita, Osaka, which is also home to Osaka University’s Suita Campus. A mischievous child, he would run and play around the hills of the Senri area, but after returning home, he would be so tired that he was practically “falling asleep while eating dinner (laughs).” Once he entered his 3rd year of junior high school, he realized that all play and no work “could be bad,” so he began to focus on his studies.

Focus under pressure

The reason Mr. Kawatsura chose OU was because “it was drilled into me by my mother that OU was the best university in Osaka.” He went into fermentation engineering because “OU was the only university that had it at the time.” While he wasn’t particularly interested in fermentation itself, as he continued he research, he found that he “had an interest in the mystery of the deep connection that microbes have with humans.”

Student demonstrations were at their peak when he entered university in 1970. Since the school was being blockaded, meaning no classes were being held, the first time he actually went to the university was in December. At the time, he entered the ice hockey club because he thought that “no one would be playing,” but practices were tough, with Mr. Kawatsura getting home very late each night. His first year, he barely ended up going to university. During his 4th year, as his job search slowly approached, he finally found the motivation to take up his studies, but “only after feeling the heat.” At work, he is much the same. “There were a lot of people who pushed me at work. I’ve been told by a number of my superiors that ‘there’s a huge gap in your concentration between when you’re doing something you want to do and when you’re doing something you don’t.’ I guess I’ve still got a bit of childish side to me,” said Mr. Kawatsura with a laugh.

The importance of work cultivated in the field

He entered Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. because the Asahi Beer in Suita factory was familiar to him, and his career advisor mentioned that, “beer breweries are as stable as government agencies, there’s no way they’ll go out of business, so go for it.”

Of his 40 years at work, 20 of those years were spent at plants in Suita and Hakata, while the following 10 years were spent working at brewing institutes in manufacturing and research & development. He learned the depth of brewing while accumulating knowledge, techniques, and experience, and his prior knowledge of microbial engineering he had studied at university served him well. He also learned the importance of work while working.

You can’t accomplish a task all by yourself

“People like me, the kind of people who can’t make heads of tails of anything after graduating from university, are first plopped at factory sites to be ‘tested.’ In various times of trouble during the manufacturing process, people in the factory know very well just how to respond. But, we don’t. And yet, we’re the ones giving the instructions. Of course, it was difficult for us to give appropriate instructions at the outset, but as we continued to repeatedly do the same things, we eventually became able to give appropriate instructions. People in the factories valued our achievements, putting us out into the next stage. When work went well, we shared our joy, and when it wasn't going so well, we encouraged each other. I learned all too well the importance of sharing the kinds of jobs other people were doing in those first few years. You can’t do it all by yourself; you can only get work done because of someone’s help. A success for one is a success for all. I still think this is extremely important.”

An unchanging policy

Even now as vice president, his policy towards beer making is unchanged. “Seeing how strongly you feel about making something that will satisfy customers is where it all begins. In order to make money, we still need to think about what business model we should have, but we need to have passion to produce high quality products. I firmly believe this.”

Go out into the world

For current OU students, he said, “I want them to go out into the world and expand their vision while in school in order to build a positive attitude to challenge various things.

There are a lot of ‘good students’ out there, OU included. But I want them to be rough and tumble now. I hope they will shape themselves in society by grinding any rough edges to become who they want to be. I enjoy seeing young people like that,” said the former “ruffian” with a smile. 

Katsuyuki KAWATSURA

A 1975 graduate of the Fermentation Engineering Department, School of Engineering, Osaka University, Mr. Kawatsura worked in the Suita and Hakata factories of Asahi Beer. After serving as a brewing head at these factories, he became deputy general manager at the Suita Factory.

He then went on to serve as Director of the Research & Development Laboratories for Brewing, Asahi Breweries, Ltd. in 2001, Product R&D Department Manager in 2004, Senior General Manager of R & D HQ for Alcoholic Beverages in 2007, Managing Director in 2010, Senior General Manager of Production HQ in 2011, after which he took his current position as Executive Vice President and Representative Director in March 2014.

Corporate Information

• Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd.
(1-23-1 Azumabashi, Sumida, Tokyo)

Asahi Group Holdings was established in 1889 as Osaka Beer Kaisha with the aim of developing a genuine domestic beer. Asahi Beer sold the first bottled and canned beers in Japan, earning the top share of beer sales in Japan with their lineup of beer products, including the immensely popular Asahi Super Dry. In 2011, Asahi Beer was reorganized to Asahi Group Holdings, with 78 graduates of Osaka University currently employed by the group.

Note: This is a reprint of the article posted in the Osaka University Newsletter No. 70 (December 2015). Mr. Kawatsura's position in the article is as of the date of its publishing. Mr. Kawatsura served as a Representative Director at Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. from January 2014 to March 24, 2016.

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