Tori-Kizoku, a fast growing Izakaya in Japan

Izakaya is a traditional style of dining bar in Japan which serves a variety of foods and drinks with reasonable price and is popular among ordinary Japanese. However, recently there is very strong competition among main Izakaya restaurant chains and many restaurants suffer from decline of sales and profits.

Tori-Kizoku is a unique Izakaya restaurant chain under such situation. They have been increasing the turnover and profit in the past 5 years continuously and expanding their chains in and around big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Then what’s is their advantage?

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First of all, as their name indicates, they are specialized with menus of chicken. Tori means bird and Kizoku means aristocracy in Japanese. I believe they include Kizoku (aristocracy) in their name to show their strong adherence to chicken. In Japan by their specialization, they obtained strong brand image as a restaurant chain of Yaki-Tori, grilled chicken skewer and typical menu of Izakaya. Also since Yaki-Tori is one of popular Japanese foods for foreign visitors to Japan, their strategy can attract foreigners too.

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Secondly they serve all their menus with only one price, 280 Japanese yen (approx. 2.8 USD). However, it’s obvious that their gross profit of some menus are less than those of the others. For example a photo below is their most popular menu, Kizoku-Yaki, which is a big Yaki-Tori and has good taste at the same time. The menu has the same 280 JPY price as other smaller sized Yaki-Tori.

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Moreover, This menu, Tori-Kamameshi, rice boiled together with chicken and vegetables in a small pot costs 280 JPY as well.

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Lastly they use the food made in Japan for almost all their menus. Like in other developed countries, nowadays the Japanese people more and more prefer to eat the food made domestically. In their website, Tori-Kizoku shows the reason to use domestic food as below.

-To serve the customers with the menus made of safe food.

-To use fresh food and to serve more delicious menus

-To support Japanese food producers as a restaurant company

Overall, I believe Tori-Kizoku has been rapidly growing not only because their menus are reasonable but also they have clear vision as a restaurant chain.

At the end of this post, one advice for those who are interested to visit the restaurant. They made a small trap for you. Not only Yaki-Tori, but the simpler menu like sliced tomatoes cost 280 JPY, too. Be sure that such menu is less reasonable than other chicken menus, especially after drinking some glasses of beer.

Below is their website (sorry in Japanese only).

http://www.torikizoku.co.jp/

Hawaii in Fukushima

Unfortunately Fukushima, a prefecture in the northeast of Japan, became world famous due to the accident of nuclear power plants after the big earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

However, Fukushima has not only nuclear power plants but also many attracting places. One of them is Spa Resort Hawaiians, a theme park featuring Hawaii inside of the northern province of Japan. The story of this park is a story of hope.

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In early 1960s, Iwaki city in Fukushima suffered from the decline of coal industry, which was the main industry for the city until that time. In order to create jobs for the workers in the coal mines and their families, Joban Colliery, an operator of the mines, made a very creative and challenging decision.

For coal mining, hot water springing out from the underground of the mines was not more than the nuisance. But the company’s idea was to heat up a dome with the heat of hot water and create a theme park featuring “Hawaii” inside the dome. At first many people including some employees of the company thought it was too unrealistic. But Mr. Yutaka Nakamura, one executive of the company led the company very strongly and made it decide to go ahead.

At that time Hawaii was the most popular foreign place for Japanese and the symbol of the oversea, while foreign trips were too expensive for ordinary Japanese. But they made a Hawaii in only 2 hour drive from Tokyo. Joban Hawaiian Center opened in 1966 attracted many ordinary Japanese dreaming a paradise and it became popular soon.

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In order to make the visitors feel like as if they were in Hawaii, the company recruited several girls in the city none of which had been overseas and gave them lessons in hula dance and other Polynesian dances so that they performed¬†the dancing show in the park like the dancers in real Hawaii.¬†After hard lessons they became the symbol of the park called “Hula Girls”. Their story became a movie in 2006 and made a big hit in Japan.

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Even after foreign trips became much less expensive for ordinary Japanese, the park had been surviving with some new ideas such as making the biggest hot spring in Japan and changing its name to Spa Resort Hawaiians.

Then, the big earthquake happened in the northeast region of Japan in March 2011. And the dome was seriously damaged and they were obliged to close the park in the long time.

However, the employees of the park didn’t forget how they overcame the serious decline of coal mining industry 50 years ago. Hula Girls visited all over Japan and performed their show believing that they could open the park again. One year after the big earthquake they reopened the park and had as much visitors as they had had before the earthquake.

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Again, when I heard a name of Fukushima in foreign countries, in many cases they mention the name related to the earthquake and the nuclear accident. I really hope Fukushima got more attention about the people who have strong mind to overcome many hard times.

Below is the website of Spa Resort Hawaiians (sorry only in Japanese).

http://www.hawaiians.co.jp/

How farms in Hokkaido attract visitors

In Japan most of the farmers struggles to continue farming when cheaper vegetables are imported to Japan and also they have difficulty to find their successors. However, in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, there is an area where the farms themselves attract many visitors.

Furano, a basin located in the central Hokkaido, surrounded by high mountains and along with Sorachi river, has fertile soil and there are many farms of potatoes, fruits and flowers.

A photo below is Mt. Tokachi, active volcano east to Furano.

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In Japan this area became famous in early 1980’s when the TV drama series Kita no Kuni kara (From the northern country in Japanese), a drama about a family which moved from Tokyo to Furano and lives in the nature, had been filmed in Furano and became a big hit. The drama series continued in 20 years till 2002. For many Japanese including me Furano is a typical image of the country side of Japan.

And in the drama the symbol of Furano was lavender and in Furano there are many farms which grow lavenders. And the biggest one is Farm Tomita. They open their flower farms to visitors for free and many visitors including foreigners come to the farm and can enjoy some flowers all the year round.

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In late August lavenders were at the end of its season. But we can still enjoy their beauty.

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Website of Farm Tomita (english available)

The farms which attract visitors are not only flower ones. Recently in Furano due to climate change some farmers started growing grapes for wine. And from a window of the cafe, Campana Rokkatei, you can see a fantastic view of vineyards on the hill with Mt. Tokachi on the back.

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Website of Rokkatei Campara (english available)

Of course it’s not only seeing vineyards. In Furano there are several winery as well and in the hotels and B&Bs in Furano, you can enjoy wines made in Furano with nice food in peaceful atmosphere. The chef of the hotel we stayed used vegetables grown in Furano as much as possible and they match with the taste of wine nicely.

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Lastly it’s reported on the news that some part of Furano area was seriously damaged by the typhoon a few days after we visited. We sincerely hope they recover from the damage soon and many people can enjoy the beauty of Furano.