Orion Beer Factory

CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE

Orion Towers

You can’t go far on Okinawa without bumping into Orion: Orion lanterns, Orion Fest, Orion shirts, and of course Orion beer! Orion (pronounced O-ree-on) is uniquely tied to Okinawa: Orion beer controls a majority share of beer consumption on Okinawa, while in mainland it is a distant fifth to the other bigger beer names. Ninety percent of Orion never leaves the island. Orion is made with Okinawan spring water that springs beneath the mountain behind the factory.

Orion was founded in 1957 during the American occupation. It started brewing a traditional German style beer, but the company’s popularity took off as the brew became a more American style beer. Recently Orion has looked to expand its market in mainland Japan and has partnered with Asahi brand for help with distribution. In return, the Orion factory also makes the Asahi beer for Okinawa.

We recently took a trip to Nago and decided to check out the Orion factory. It was a fun mini-tour and tasting. Don’t plan on it being the only thing you do in Nago, but it is a great partner with other sites such as the Nago Castle Park, Pineapple Park or on the way back from Okuma.

Upon entering the grounds, we were directed where to park and where to start the tour.  Parking is next to the giant beer storage towers. Later we were told that each tower can hold 10 million liters of beer. If you had a beer a day, it would take you 1,500 years to drink your way through one tower! We walked inside and registered. One person from each car was designated as the driver and wore a sign around his or her neck to show that he or she will not be having any beer samples. Everyone is given a ticket for free beverages later.

Orion Machine

The guided tours are regularly available in Japanese. If you are with an English speaking large group you can call ahead and make arrangements for a guided English tour (number below). They also provide large laminated English written translations of the tour. You can either follow the tour guide or take the self guided tour, which we did. The tour overlooks the process of malting, milling, mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering, and packaging. There are both displays on the walls and large windows into the factory. At the end there are two displays with a history of the Orion cans and a display about how the packaging is recycled.

Orion Art
This piece of art is made out of Orion cans!

Orion Hall

We finished the tour in factory guest hall. One wall shows Egyptian hieroglyphics of the beer making process and displays beer related accoutrements from around the world. At the counter you can turn in your tickets for beverages. Beer drinkers can have two pours and non beer drinkers are given their choice of soft drinks. We each got a package of Orion brand covered nuts – yummy! While we drank a large screen showed video about Orion. They seemed to have both Japanese and English version of the video. Adjacent to the beer hall is a gift shop where I finally got my Orion shirt: Orion, For Your Happy Time!

Orion Tshirt The Orion factory is open from 10:00 – 19:00 pm daily, but THE LAST TOUR (as of June 2014) IS AT 16:40. Guided tours in Japanese start every half hour with a break between 11:00am and 1:00pm. If you’d like to see the machines running, your best bet is to go during the week. If you have a large English-speaking group you should call ahead and line up a special tour a month in advance.

The Orion Factory also has a restaurant! It is open from 1000-1900 with last order at 1830. The menu features Okinawan specialties such as pork, goya, soba and, of course, Orion!

Phone: 0980-54-4103.

Website: www.orionbeer.co.jp is in Japanese, but has some interesting information when translated.

Directions:  Getting to the factory is easy. Travel north on 58 or take the expressway and get on 58 at the last exit. As you enter Nago you will pass an A&W and a McDonalds. Shortly after, on your left, will be a large pachinko place named Super Big One. Take a right at the next intersection, following the sign for Nago Castle and a museum. Drive past the San-A and the school. The Orion factory will be on your right.

I’ve saved the best part for last: the tour with samples is free! So “For your happy time” I hope you have a chance to enjoy this tour of “The beer of beers!”

 

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15 Comments
  • August 11, 2011

    I visited the factory today expecting to be able to take a self-guided tour when I walked in. I don’t think they offer this anymore because the woman behind the information desk wrote down a time for the four of us to come back and take a guided tour. We came back (2 hours later)and had to go with a very large group of Japanese tourists and the Japanese (only) speaking tour guide. None of my group understands Japanese but we were expected to stay with the group anyway. The tour took about a half hour and was extremely boring. We were not provided with English translations of the tour, only an English pamphlet that didn’t explain much about what was happening during the tour. Since we were in Nago doing other stuff (Pineapple Park, Glass-Bottom Boat), we were happy to take an hour in an air-conditioned brewery and cool down with a couple free beers. BUT it was definitely not the same experience the original article describes. Definitely worth it if you need a little cool down though!

    Missy
    Reply
  • August 12, 2011

    We went here in conjunction with the ITT tour “Explore the North” and this was the more boring part of the tour for us. The tour was on a weekend, when nobody works. It isn’t fun to visit a factory that isn’t operating. Being a huge fan of Mr. Rogers and his many factory tours, I was expecting something along those lines. ;) The ITT tour guide translated for us. There were two free beers at the end but as we are not drinkers, this wasn’t any consolation.

    Mrs Q
    Reply
  • August 12, 2011

    I loved the Orion Beer Tour!! They don’t give the tour in English… but I don’t expect that since we live in Japan. The pamphlet is self explanatory and it was pretty cool to see how the beer is made, bottled, and… drank. I can personally vouch for taking part in the last part. And what is there to complain about when you get 2 FREE beers? I can’t wait to go back.

    Kara
    Reply
  • December 26, 2011

    I agree with Kara. It’s fun if you have the right attitude plus it’s 2 free beers!

    Sandra
    Reply
  • November 3, 2012

    Do they sell beer mugs there?

    mark
    Reply
  • December 17, 2012

    Mark, I know they have a lot of Orion “stuff.” I don’t specifically remember mugs though.

    Sarah
    Reply
  • February 3, 2013

    As an American Soldier stationed in Okinawa in 1967, I remember the long beautiful ride up the coast to Nago to visit the brewery. I used to go in a group of young soldiers, either staging for Viet Nam or returning from Viet Nam and at the end of the tour we would be given all or the beer that we could drink. Needless to say, when we went into the towns, we were some of their best customers for the Asahi label, which was brewed there at that time.

    David Johnson
    Reply
  • July 31, 2013

    For my husband’s birthday we took this tour. I highly recommend that you contact ITT about times to book a tour because if you want an english speaking tour it must be booked in advance. HOWEVER if you are just wanting to go and see the brewery, you can still book the tour and go with a group, they do offer English pamphlets that show a little about the brewery but not exactly everything covered in the tour. The tour is free. They didn’t allow pictures inside the brewery. We went on a Saturday, so there was no beer making in progress, therefore I suggest that if you want to see the brewery in action, go during the week. This tour interested my husband a great deal, as brewing beer is a hobby he enjoys, so he knew some of the process. We went in a small group with a couple from Korea. The tour guide only spoke Japanese and some Korean, however, she carried cards with her, that had Korean characters as well as English on them, that explained a little about each stop that we made. We had our children with us, and she was courteous, pointing out the elevator to us as we needed it. We were also given small clip tags for samples afterwards. Be aware that there is very little tolerance to DUIs on the island and therefore you MUST choose someone in your party to be a designated driver. The clips given to us, showed who was allowed samples and who was not. They offered two glasses of draft beer at the sampling to those who were drinking. And anyone else was offered, tea, soda pop or juice, as well as a package of nuts. The tour time was about 30 minutes, however I can see how in larger groups with those with more questions, the tour could take up to 50 minutes. It offered our children a great chance to see how thorough the recycling programs can be around the island. Parking for the brewery is on the left side of the street. The lobby for tours opens at 9:20 am.

    Liz
    Reply
    • July 31, 2013

      I forgot to mention, they had a gift shop with some Orion shirts and gifts. I did not see Beer Mugs, but they did sell a few different kinds of beer glasses.

      Liz
      Reply
  • July 31, 2013

    When last I was in Nago, it was a small quiet tropical town surrounded by lush countryside dedicated to agriculture. A single two lane highway ran along the coastline into Nago. The northern third of the island was sparsely populated. That was in 1967, just before Tet of ’68. I wonder how much that has changed.

    David Johnson
    Reply
  • August 29, 2013

    I just want an Orion Beer t-shirt. I was a Marine stationed on Okinawa in 1999. My greatest regret was that I did NOT pick up an “Orion Beer” t-shirt.

    Can ANYONE help me out?

    mike.holmes2501@gmail.com

    Sirgallahad4
    Reply
  • December 20, 2013

    What is the cost to get in? Thank you :D

    Theresa
    Reply
    • December 21, 2013

      Per the last line of the article above (after the directions) the tours are free.

      LaLa
      Reply
  • June 26, 2014

    Could someone please update the article to state that the last tour is at 16:40. Only the restaurant and gift shop are open till 19:00. I trusted this site when my son came over from the states and wanted to go. He is a huge beer connoisseur and enjoys the free drinks at the end of brewery tours. It was his last day here and I had just gotten off work at 16:30 and we drove up to Nago in a Typhoon and just made it there by 18:00 and were completely surprised that it was dead in there and there were no tours past 16:40. The more info I read on Okinawahai the more I realize no on knows what they are talking about. COUNTLESS directions are wrong and even operating times are wrong. Please update the article. Also, please POST ADDRESSES if you are not going to post maps. My son now will never get to see the inside of the Orion Beer Factory due to this terrible false information. He is devastated 8 year old.

    Reply
    • June 26, 2014

      Hi Tyrone,

      I’m sorry you missed the tour, but thank you for letting us know that the last tour is at 16:40. I have updated the post. This website is a compilation of posts by our readers, for our readers, so as hours of operation (and even directions/locations) change, we rely on readers to keep us in the know so we can update the articles. We would love to have addresses posted for each and every place on the website, but again, we rely on writers to send us those addresses, and unfortunately it’s not always easy to get a physical address of every location on the island. We are actively working with our IT team to enable a map with pins so that it’s easier for you to navigate.

      On a different note, I am a little confused when you say your 8-year-old son is a beer connoisseur.

      In any case, thank you for the update and please let us know if you can provide corrections to any addresses or hours of operation that you find incorrect. We are happy to update them!

      Local Manager
      Reply