Photo/IllutrationStanding next to a beer tank sent from the United States, Shuhei Ikeda is all smiles in his craft beer brewery in Hachioji, western Tokyo. (Yoshihito Kawami)

  • Photo/Illustraion

After abandoning his career in downtown Tokyo and moving to the countryside, an outdoor enthusiast found a solution to his worries about loneliness: craft beer.

Shuhei Ikeda, 37, owner of microbrewery Takao Beer Co. in the Shimo-Ongatamachi district of Hachioji, western Tokyo, is adamant about using local ingredients in his brews to vitalize the area.

“Beer has the power to connect people. I’d be happy if I could play a role in bringing people together,” Ikeda said.

As he poured fermenting wort into a glass, a sweet, full-bodied aroma filled the air of the brewery that had been renovated from a textile factory.

“Beer brewing is like taking care of a child,” Ikeda said. “Being able to create a variety of flavors by incorporating originality and ingenuity is also a charm in beer brewing.”

Ikeda, whose hobbies are mountain hiking and other outdoor activities, had frequented Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures and elsewhere on weekends from his home in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

He soon wanted to move to the Takao area in Hachioji because of its convenient location to mountains and other places of interest, so he bought a house near Takao Station and relocated in 2014.

However, with plans of staying there long term, Ikeda started worrying about whether he would be lonely. He thought up ideas that would get the locals to mingle more while stimulating the community.

During his repeated travels to the United States for mountain hiking, Ikeda visited microbreweries and their bars in many of the base towns.

According to Ikeda, he wanted to set up a similar culture in the Takao area where climbers and residents could socialize and enjoy each other’s company.

Since moving to Hachioji, Ikeda had always been thinking about starting his own business. He quit his job at a design company in the Tokyo city center before studying management of craft beer breweries and other businesses through a correspondence course from a U.S. university.

For a short period, he then “studied” at a beer brewery in California to master brewing techniques. He earned his brewing license in October 2017.

Determined to use local products and incorporate seasonal flavors for his beers, Ikeda relies on hops, “yuzu” citrus fruit and other ingredients produced in Hachioji for his two varieties of beer currently offered for sale.

Hideyuki Okamoto, 45, from Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, and Katsuji Sekiya, 46, from Shinagawa Ward in the capital, visited Takao Beer to taste Ikeda’s creations. They said the craft beers both had rich flavor, and they felt that Ikeda was putting his all into his job.

Ikeda’s beers are sold in 330-milliliter bottles priced between around 600 yen ($5.45) and 700 yen at liquor shops and a sales section attached to the brewery.

In addition, an increasing number of restaurants in the city serve his craft beer. Ikeda is also thinking about opening a bar near Takao Station, where his company’s main office is located, before the year is out.

He says he wants to do business with local people.

“I want to lure a wide variety of people and bring hustle and bustle (to Hachioji) through mountain climbing and the creation of charm, which is locally produced craft beer,” Ikeda said. “The company doesn’t need to be big. I just want to invigorate the whole city.”