Coca Cola East Japan Plant Tour

The efficiency of the Japanese production system

By Rey Waters   Nov 20, 2017

My wife was required to work one day in Higashikurume, a bedroom community in northeast Tokyo. I Google researched what was in the area and found a Coca Cola plant that offers tours. Miwa and I had taken the Atlanta, Georgia headquarters tour back in 2012, which was a fun event.

From their web page I made a 10am reservation for an English language tour. Our guide Sara gave us a very informative presentation. For most of the tour there is no photography allowed, but they give you a booklet that recaps the plant operation.

This plant produces 72,000 bottles per hour. The Tama Plant is one of 21 Coca Cola plants throughout Japan, with ten offering tours. It started with importing Coke in 1910 and the opening of their first plant in 1957.

Plastic bottles are made in each plant. The Georgia brand coffee produces at 800 bottles per minute. Pet Bottles start out as small Preform and are then heated and blown into shape with air.

Four employees control the Georgia can production line using cameras throughout the process. There are 290 Tama plant employees with approximately 100 per shift.

This 21-year old plant produces 150 products. Coca Cola Japan produces over 800 products, which are also shipped to other Asian countries.

Some interesting facts are:

  1. There are no warehouses and all products are shipped directly to the customer.
  2. Throughout the factory you will notice orange plastic covers along the production line and this is because bats do not like this color.
  3. There are three defect inspections of the finished product, with one being visual.
  4. The visual defect inspections have two employees that are required to take breaks every fifteen minutes with a thorough eye exam every two to three months.

The next part of the tour was the most interesting to me; the recycling of bottles, cans, and, waste. Glass bottles are returned to the plant cleaned and reused. When the bottle life has expired it is then ground down and used as insulation in construction. Steel cans are made into car parts and construction materials. Aluminum cans are melted down and reused for coke products. Pet bottles are shredded, made into fibers for clothing, t-shirts, bags, chairs, etc. The clothes worn by your tour guides are made entirely of recycled pet bottles.

This plant produces 120,000 tons of waste (coffee grounds, tea leaves), and almost 100 percent is recycled into fertilizer and energy.

Our last stop was the tasting area where we received a free bottle of coke and a 20 minute video recapping the plant operation. There is a display of many of the products made at this plant including the new Christmas bottles that have a secret code on the label, which could make you a winner of a Christmas cake.

Many worldwide Coca Cola brands have originated in Japan: In 1973 Hi-C using mandarins and apples grown in Japan was introduced. Georgia coffee began in 1975, the Aquarius sports drink in 1983, Sokenbicha teas in 1993, and Minute Maid Qoo in 1999.

There are 980,000 Coca Cola vending machines in Japan. In use are Peak Shift Vending Machines, which keep beverages cool without using electricity for up to 16 hours.

No matter what part of Japan you are visiting, there is a Coca Cola plant that offer tours. It is well worth it to see how familiar products from the U.S. are made here.

The tour requires reservations and you make them by filling out a form on their web page (Japanese only) or by calling 042-471-0463 for available times and slots.

Another great way to spend a few hours while on your visit to Tokyo and the tour is free.

Getting there

From Higashikurume it is a 25 minute walk via Highway 234, which I recommend because you will pass some historic train displays on the way.  There are also several local buses which will take you directly to the plant.

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