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Blessing ceremony for a premium truck

15 FEBRUARY 2018

In a tranquil backyard at the foot of Mount Fuji, a Shinto priest is blessing a new Scania R 450. An hour later the vehicle is purified from any evil and is ready to deliver Suntory whisky all over Japan.

It’s the second Scania in the fleet belonging to Nirasaki Honcho Transportation, for whom vehicle preparation is all-important.

“I’m very interested in the new generation Scania trucks, but I decided to test this R 450 first. I care about my drivers and always listen to their opinions, and I believe they will have a better working life in a Scania,” says Norikazu Yamadera, the CEO of the far-sighted Japanese haulier.

A far-sighted Japanese haulier

Nearly a century in business, Nirasaki Honcho’s first operations were to deliver rice and silk from the idyllic Nirasaki region to the Emperors Palace in Tokyo. A turning point for the company’s operations came in the 1970s, when Yamadera Norikazu´s father went to the United States and was impressed by the use of trailers by transport companies there. The concept was introduced to Japan and today Nirasaki Honcho operates with tractors and their own trailers only.

“My father continued to travel a lot, and brought many new ideas back to Japan. Today our policy is to test and evaluate each new transport solution. The European brands have strong safety standards, which is extremely important in Japan, and also good fuel savings.”

Need for sustainable solution leads Nirasaki to Scania

With the gigantic brewing and distilling company group Suntory as its primary customer, Nirasaki Honcho has huge demands on their operations. Suntory wants Nirasaki Honcho to be innovative and test new solutions, including using imported vehicles and transport solutions.

“Suntory strives for more sustainable transport operations. Operating with Scania means we can provide a solution with fewer CO2 emissions and better safety,” Norikazu Yamadera says.

A safe truck is a blessing

But in Japan safety takes more than premium products. A new vehicle and the drivers have to be blessed in a traditional ceremony by a Shinto priest. Shinto, the ethnic religion of Japan, is one of the country’s major faiths.

The blessing ceremony is conducted in a parking lot outside Nirasaki Honcho’s head office in the city of Nirasaki, which is in a region famous for its pure and clean water. The priest comes from the Nichiren Shu head temple of the Lotus Sutra, a sacred site that was founded in 1274.

Offering prayers as well as sake and salt to the Shinto gods, the priest chants the vehicle’s registration number, accompanied by drumsticks. Everything is done at a furious tempo.

After an hour the voice of the priest starts to crack, but the truck and its four drivers are duly blessed and ready for the Japanese roads, to make new deliveries of whisky, rice wine and mineral water to Suntory customers all over Japan.