Hello from Japan. Today, Yuka is writing this newsletter.
There is a huge gap between in economy in cities and local cities now in Japan. It used to be shopping streets near each train station were busy in local cities but they are now shuttered streets and decrease of population of local area never seems to stop.
They are trying to seek for the way to survive-depopulation is the most serious problem for many local area. Genki ga aru -means full of energy, but most local areas are Genkiga nai-no energy, and exahusted.
However, there are some examples of miracle from those exahusted area. I would like to introduce about women's power from Yachiyo district Takacho- one of the small local area located in mid Hyogo prefecture(Hyogo is near Osaka, in western Japan. Kobe is the most famous city of Hyogo).
Yachiyo area has only 6,200 population and is a typical old village of country side with no particular industry.
There is a women's group who runs a store to sell maki-zushi(sushi roll) and other food in the small store in the area- they sell 170 million yen a year-it is approx US $1.7 million.
This is their sushi roll:
This is not a kind of sushi with fresh (and expensive )fish, you can eat at fancy Japanese restanrants. Makizushi(sushi roll) are more like homemade taste- when there is something to celebrate, mothers made sushi roll for everyone. In occasions such as children entering new schools, someone away from home coming back, sports festival or birthday-sushi-roll is a typical mothers' cooking.
The fillings can be anything, but traditional makizushi always have cooked egg, cucumber, cooked shiitake mushrooms and koyadofu(freeze dried bean curd). They are rather simple, inexpensive ingriedieints.
30 years ago, the women in the area had a cooking gathering. They were exchanging recipe and making miso and other hand made food- for their own home and to have community bonding.
One time, there was an empty space of farmers's union branch at that area, and they were asked if they wanted to open a `country side convenience store'. They prepared products -sushi roll and other food and started the store. However, they were sold only a little by the neighbors and they could not have profit. The leader of that women's group decided to add some impact to their sushi- roll - they put fillings twice as much as they used. They also made jam from left over cucumber for sushi-roll and also made doughnut adding freeze dried bean curd. They did not like to waste the ingreadients. They used most of ingriedients from this area-more over, as housewives, they did not like to waste food!
Their sushi-roll taste spread by word of mouth-the reputation called more and more people.
Their sushi-roll sell 1000 a day and other products(also typical homecooking)sell a lot. The fillings of their sushi-roll is tastey and the big piece of cucumber adds very nice accent, they say. The fans come all the way from other prefectures, and their products sell so quickly.
The leader of the group has this courage to try the big fillings - she could have withdraw but her challenge made a big employment. We call it `obachan power'(old women's power)-their energy is great!
One of the staff come to the store 2:00 in the morning everyday when the store is open- she is almost 70 years old and she is in charge of rice cooking. She takes care of the huge rice cookers alone and cook the rice excellent for sushi. Another women is in charge of rice vinegar- a vinegar company is asking her to sell the recipe of blending the vinegar, sugar and dashi stock. Another women is in charge of cooked egg-tamagoyaki. Tamagoyaki is typical mother's cooking, ofukurono aji. Her tamagoyaki is the essence of their sushi roll. Some staff are expert of wrapping rice and ingriedients with nori - sea weed sheet . It should not be too tight- there should be some air, experience is their advantage!
They use 50 tons of rice from the area a year, and there are 30 women staff working for this store. Their smiles were brilliant. They get monthly salary and sometimes bonus. One of the women said, in the interview, ` You know the area is old country side, and a man in the famly is the head of household. I did not have bank accounting book for myself before, but now I do.' Some women were so thankful to the leader who offered a challenge for the store-they could send their kids to college. More over, they said `Feeling that I am needed here is great. I have a place where I can be useful.' They say they really enjoy the work. Many of them are in their 60's or so but they come and work from 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, happily. Their sushi and other products sell like pancakes everyday.
This is thier website:
Here is how to make sushi roll-fillings can be anything- salmon and avocado? they are great too.
After watching thier program on TV, I could not resist to eat sushi-roll for lunch!
If you are interested in other Japanese home cooking, I recommend this book:
Japanese cooking is not mysterious, and she is showing them in simple way!