Author Archive Kinjo

The Importance of Tradition, Research and Family

18 de June de 2019 Comments Off on The Importance of Tradition, Research and Family By Kinjo

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The Importance of Tradition, Research and Family

A highly valued tradition in the Imperial Family is waka, a form of Japanese poetry, and Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress compose waka poems on various occasions. Every year in January, Utakai Hajime, the Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading Ceremony, a ceremony said to date back to the mid-Kamakura Period (1185-1333), takes place at the Imperial Palace. Ten waka poems selected from across Japan are presented on that occasion, along with the waka poems composed by Their Majesties and other members of the Imperial Family.

Since the cultivation of rice is central to the agriculture culture of Japan, His Majesty the Emperor has continued the practice of rice cultivation passed on from Emperor Showa. He sows the seeds, plants the seedlings and harvests the crops Himself. Her Majesty the Empress carries on the sericulture tradition passed down from Empress Dowager Shoken by raising silkworms, which She feeds with mulberry leaves, at the Sericulture Center on the Imperial Palace Grounds.

His Majesty the Emperor has engaged in taxonomic research about gobiid fishes for many years. He has discovered eight new species of gobies and published more than thirty papers for academic journals as a member of the Ichthyological Society of Japan. Based on these achievements, He was elected as one of the foreign members, limited to fifty, of the Linnean Society of London in 1980, and was later elected as an honorary member of the Society in 1986. His Majesty is also a research associate of the Australian Museum, as well as an honorary member of the Zoological Society of London and a lifetime honorary member of the Research Institute for Natural Science of Argentina. In 1998, He became the first recipient of the King Charles the Second Medal from the Royal Society of London, an award established to honor those heads of state who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of science.

Her Majesty the Empress finds time in between Her official duties to enjoy literature and music. She has written the text for My First Mountain, a children’s picture book that has been published in Japanese and several other languages. She also translated eighty poems by Michio Mado into English, which led to the poet receiving the Hans Christian Andersen Author’s Award in 1994. Her Majesty also plays the piano, sometimes performing in ensembles with world-class artists.

Their Majesties also play tennis in addition to taking early morning walks around the palace grounds to enjoy the changes of the seasons.

Their Majesties value family bonds deeply and raised Their three children close to Them at home. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince married Masako Owada in 1993 and welcomed the arrival of Princess Aiko in 2001. Prince Fumihito married Kiko Kawashima in 1990 and they have three children, Princess Mako, Princess Kako, and Prince Hisahito. Princess Sayako married Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005 and left the Imperial Family.

As of April 2019, Their Majesties will have been married for sixty years.

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A Craving for Noodles: Bringing Udon to the World

18 de June de 2019 Comments Off on A Craving for Noodles: Bringing Udon to the World By Kinjo

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Satoshi Suga, general manager of the International Business Planning Department at TORIDOLL Holdings Corporation, says that the overseas expansion of their sanuki udon restaurant chain Marugame Seimen began with a hunch on the part of CEO Takaya Awata. The company already had overseas expansion plans when in 2011 they came across an empty shop on a popular street in Hawaii. They grabbed the spot and were blown away by the positive reception. That Hawaii branch continues to grow—with lines of patrons waiting to sample the firm’s popular udon—and remains the top earner of all their overseas branches. Deciding to jump in quickly instead of spending money on marketing research, the company opened test shops in various countries and regions. From 2012, they swiftly expanded into Thailand, China, Korea, Indonesia, Oceania, Russia and the United States, and currently have shops in fourteen regions.

“While the ramen craze was in full swing, it seems many people were seeking something less oily and with a healthier image,” Suga says about udon’s popularity overseas. Compared to ramen, udon is also less expensive—another reason for its popularity.

While long tables bearing toppings to customize your udon are quite common in Japan, Suga notes that before opening shops in many countries they received feedback that this layout looked too much like a cafeteria. They decided to stick with the self-serve system, however, which ultimately captured the interest of customers and boosted popularity.

According to Awata, the key to expanding overseas is flexible product creation. He mentions that while half of their overseas menus feature classic dishes, the other half is adapted to suit local tastes. He finds it interesting to see what new combinations this flexible approach creates.

Of course, concocting new products is not an easy task. For instance, the strength and taste of the dashi broth had to be adjusted to match local food culture and preferences. The Chinese branches have a tomato-based soup, for example, while in Indonesia they offer chicken broth; in Thailand, customers can enjoy udon in a sour-spicy tom yum-based soup. In the Philippines, the savory and sweet Sukiyaki Ninja udon with beef and egg was an unexpected hit. The free toppings are also tailored to each country. For example, in Vietnam they offer cilantro, and chopped chili peppers at their Indonesian branch.

While there are limits to shop sizes and food handling regulations, regardless of where the shop is located, the chain sticks to their policy of making noodles from scratch in-house. Each country’s udon comes out differently depending on the water and the type of flour used. Every time the company opens a shop in a new country, they experiment repeatedly to find the perfect consistency for the noodles, making product creation the most crucial step.

The company now has six hundred shops overseas. Of these, Marugame Seimen is their largest brand. With udon as their core product, they plan to focus on expanding in the United States, and are considering moving into Europe and the Middle East. “We believe we can call ourselves a global franchise with more branches overseas than in Japan,” Suga expounds firmly. “We’d like to be the pioneers of this idea.”

Whatever other ingredients accompany these noodles, customers overseas clearly welcome the firmness and flexibility that Japanese udon offers.

By Tamaki Kawasaki

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