The Story of Minoru Shirota: Founder of Yakult

On April 23 in the year 1899, one of the entrepreneurs who built a fortune from microbiology was born in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. His name was Minoru Shirota, the founder of Yakult, a producer of the probiotic drink.

Minoru Shirota
Minoru Shirota (Photo Credit:

The son of a local businessman in a poor farming village, Minoru Shirota witnessed how people suffered and children died due to infectious diseases and malnutrition. Disturbed by this reality, he vowed to be a physician someday. So he enrolled at the Kyoto Imperial University where she obtained a degree in medicine. After graduation, he continued his research on bacteria.

In 1930, Minoru Shirota successfully isolated and cultured a kind of probiotic strain that provided health benefits in the intestines. A strong believer in preventive medicine, he produced a healthy drink that contained billions of beneficial bacteria which is scientifically called Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. In 1935, he started to market this beverage which he named Yakult, a fermented milk-based drink produced in glass bottles. The name is taken from the word Yahulto which means yogurt.

Minoru Shirota set up a marketing strategy that was unique during the prewar period. He employed women to sell the product house to house. They were soon called Yakult ladies. After the war, Minoru established Yakult Honsha Ltd. in Tokyo City. It also put up a research center in Kyoto. Production and sales offices were established overseas starting in Taiwan and then Brazil followed other countries.

Minoru Shirota died in 1982 at the age of 82. He had a son with his wife Yoshie. At present, Yakult is available in more than 30 countries.


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