The shop managers who went to Japan are here to tell us what they thought and learned. Check out Yohanes‘ writeup!
Japan Trip: 29-09-2023 to 05-10-2023
It starts from here! The flight from Auckland to Tokyo took 10 hours 6 minutes.
After another two hours, finally we are at the hotel where we stay during our Japan trip.
My first impressions: Japan is very small. Everything is very compact and close together. For example, as you can see there is no proper garage like in New Zealand.
Tokyo has a lot of convenience retail such as vending machines. You can find machines like this on every street corner.
Our first dinner in Tokyo, food was delicious. We sat at a table outside in a narrow alleyway, perfect in the hot weather.
Here is our first breakfast in Tokyo, at Yayoiken, a chain offering home-style set meals at reasonable prices. I had the oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice).
Time for sightseeing around Tokyo, starting with the Tokyo Food Show underground deli floor. So many nice foods, and the sushi here is different to St Pierre’s. Sushi in Japan is mostly nigiri and onigiri. They do a lot of deep-fried items too, which is good for bento bowl. Each deli counter specialises in a different food category, which is a totally different retail style to NZ.
Finally we are here at Shibuya crossing, known as the world’s busiest crosswalk.
Dinner time with Mr Nakashima from a major trading partner. The shabu shabu nabe (beef and veges hot pot) was great!
The Tokyo subway map is so complicated! We need to read it properly otherwise it is very easy to get lost here.
The next day we went to Kamakura to see Big Buddha and sightseeing with Mr Takagi, former salesperson for St Pierre’s. We saw lots of interesting food such as fried mince katsu plus cool mochi and noodle ice cream along the way. The real fruit mochi was great!
Nick needed his new umbrella, the weather that day was very hot.
Finally we are here at the Big Buddha. A long way but an impressive sight!
Back at Yokohama Station, we checked out the Food & Time Isetan food hall. Their nigiri shops had karaage and nigiri in cool single-serve containers. I think we could use containers like these as they look great and are very hygienic. The famous spam and egg nigiri looked delicious, I’d love to sell that too.
After Big Buddha we went to Ramen Museum, as you see here is a map of Japan but featuring different types of ramen from every region.
Shoes with noodle picture in it. Cool alley place inside ramen museum.
Of course we need to try the ramen too – soy based ramen from Hokkaido in the north and tonkotsu base ramen from Kumamoto in the south. Such amazing diversity of flavours!
Along the way home we see a cool 5D cat billboard in Shinjuku – so many people standing and watching!
The next day we are going to the soy sauce factory, about 2 hours by train from where we live.
We were greeted by Ms. Miku Kobayashi, the salesperson for St. Pierre’s, who took us to a nice sashimi lunch overlooking the sea.
Each tank full of soy sauce makes 8000 litres and they have 16 giant tanks. The photo shows the outdoor maturing tanks, which are much bigger again!
Ice cream with soy sauce flavour. A great snack before the train home.
Dinner time – pork katsu curry at CoCoIchibanya. Yummm!
The next day we went to the vinegar factory. Here is part of the process of making vinegar.
They are very strict with hygiene – as you can see, we need to wear special overall dress, including shoes.
We only take one of their products, but they make all sorts of vinegars and dressings. Do not to forget lunch and sampling time! The simple and beautiful flavours of the sushi went really well with the natural vinegar dressings and jellies.
Next, we went to ginger factory, where we were greeted by the owner.
Finally, we visited a historic sake brewery, Ryujin Shuzo and got a tour from the master brewer.
Back in Tokyo, for dinner we tried Japanese BBQ food at Taishoen in Ueno. It was simply delicious!
The next day, Wednesday, we went to our mayo supplier.
As you can see in the picture, this is a room shaped like our small mayo bottle. Inside is where they tell us the story about their mayo.
Another cool photo if you see this, it looks just like normal eggs hanging on the wall…
but if you see it from far away, you can see a picture of the mayo baby.
Lunch time and sampling time, some very nice salad mix dressings. Lots of variety – creamy, oil and non-oil. The rich and aromatic Japanese style dressings were particularly good, so refreshing. I think they would be good for St. Pierre’s to use such as in fresh salads.
The team also made us sushi sandwiches for lunch, which were yummy and easy to make. I think they could be a good menu option for us.
Tonight is our last night in Tokyo so time to finish off with nice meal including seared tuna tataki and Kobe beef at an izakaya in Shimbashi, a bustling eating district popular with office workers.
Next morning we met with another trading company and had samples from our mochi suppliers. Here is our last lunch, amazingly tender tonkatsu at Isen Honten, before heading to Narita Airport.
Lastly I would like to say big thank you to all the bosses who make this trip happening, such an amazing experience, seeing the original country where we make their food in New Zealand. I really learned a lot!
Thanks also to Glen who help with the trip and translation. You’re the Best Glen.
The flight back from Tokyo to Auckland took 9 hours 20 minutes.
Thank you again everyone!