Sustainable Sweet [Spring] Talk at Taiko Udon

Here we are talking spring and sustainability in a new series for 2019 titled “Sustainable-Sweet-Talk”. This is an exciting new collaboration with local food expert, Hiroshima Food Snob, who in her mere eight years in Hiroshima has gone to university and run her own cool cafe and is now working as a writer, TV talent and translator- so exciting to work with someone so passionate and knowledgeable about Japanese food. We both love sweets, so even if we don’t eat sweets every time (although we likely will), focusing on sustainable innovation is always SWEET as in awesome if you don’t mind my dated slang.

HiroshimaFoodSnob and I will meet up regularly to introduce you to the best local events and eateries that have great products and services, like Taiko Udon above, which operate with a higher-than-business-as-usual-level focus on sustainability.

In this video, we introduce some great nature-based sakura viewing activities for travelers coming to Hiroshima in Spring. Read more about Spring festivals and events in Hiroshima on GetHiroshima

Rachel (Hiroshima Food Snob) has written a great introduction to Taiko Udon in Hiroshima city here.

From a sustainable business model, Taiko Udon is a great case study of innovation and business strategy. The owner attended many of the inbound marketing seminars by GetHiroshima/Jizo Hat and was keen to meet the new demand by international travelers to Japan searching for vegan Japanese dining options. Taiko-Udon now has created a menu filled with beautifully flavorful, plant-based soup broth vegan noodle options- relatively unheard of in most Japanese restaurants across Japan.

The owner is also keen to address waste issues by tackling chopstick or utensil single-use waste. Taiko-Udon provides more sustainable versions of the disposable chopstick for diners, created from locally sourced bamboo. But above and beyond the norm, Taiko-Udon also sells light, clean and beautiful wooden reusable dining sets in a foldable case for 500 yen. This is a great resource for locals and travelers looking for a portable “myhashi” utensil solution to the single-use problem.

In terms of sustainable-business operations, Taiko Udon ticks a lot of boxes: transparency of operations (good English and Japanese menu), seasonal varieties of food sourced from local areas, reusable cutlery, and caters to the needs of customers with religious, allergy or dietary restrictive lifestyles: the vegan options with 100% plant-based soup stock (dashi) is a welcome, sustainable innovation at a Japanese noodle shop.

The owner of Taiko says of his reasons to switch to a plant-based soup stock and sell reusable cutlery, “We do what we can do”. This is the absolute key to sustainable business success. First, make clear, realistic goals, then reassess progress, renew goals, & repeat.

Tourism Demand Driving Japan’s Vegan Boom

Over the last twenty years, vegan or vegetarian residents and visitors have had to settle with the limited salad or side offerings available at eateries across Japan. As environmental awareness has influenced the number of non-meat and non-fish eaters abroad, however, the percentage of inbound visitors seeking alternative meals to Japan’s typical fare of Sushi, Ramen, Tonkatsu and Yakiniku is also increasing. There is currently no data on the eating habits or dietary diversity of inbound visitors to Japan, but a look at the country of origin of inbound visitors and the percentages of veganism and vegetarian in those countries gives us an indication that at least 5-10% of international visitors to Japan do not eat meat or fish. Of the 30 million international visitors to Japan in 2018, this would be between 1.5 to 3 million annual vegan or vegetarian visitors coming to Japan. Add to this the higher percentage of meat eaters who occasionally choose plant-based options and demand is even higher.
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Sustainable (SDG) Tourism Business Facility Idea ‘Full-Circle’

If a destination manager or entrepreneur were trying to think of an innovative facility that would follow a sustainable tourism model, what would it look like? How could you create a profitable business that enhances the lives of local residents, appeals to visitors, and does not damage the environment; yet still maintains steady cash flow?
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Exceptional Craft Breweries Rise & Win + Stone Wall Hill

Craft beer is always enhanced by a great backstory.

Big changes in the popularity of craft brew in Japan have mirrored the enthusiasm for hand-crafted, locally-sourced, high-quality beers around the world. In the mountains of Tokushima, the zero-waste town of Kamikatsu has two outstanding breweries: Rise & Win and Stone Wall Hill. Both of these breweries produce delicious Portland-style beers while practicing the highest levels of sustainable business operations in stylish fashion. In fact, in every aspect of design, planning, and operations, R&W/SEH breweries are great examples of entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation in Japan.
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Better than Business As Usual – Ethical Innovation at Curry House CoCoIchibanya

Inbound visitors to Japan are continuing to increase and some food chains are innovating the way they have always done business to better accommodate the needs of international customers. A stand-out example is CocoIchibanya, the international curry-rice chain that has spread from Japan throughout Asia. Coco’s started in 1978 and has expanded upon their domination across Japan to 155 stores overseas as of May 2018. The first overseas shop opened in Hawaii in 1994 and then in China in 2004.
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Japan’s First Zero-Waste Accreditation Launches in Kamikatsu

The smallest town on Shikoku island, Kamikatsu, is once again forging to the front. While cities and countries around the world struggle to create stricter policies to reduce and manage waste, Kamikatsu now reaps the benefits of over fifteen years of experience in sustainable development and management. Most recently, at the end in 2017, the Zero Waste Academy launched a new accreditation scheme which has great potential to set a new transparency standard for sustainable business operations in Japan.

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Reusable Containers Improve Branding

I’ve never been to a quality sake or beer festival that doesn’t use traditional ceramic sake cups or beer “joki” to provide the best experience of their product.
Enjoying a quality drink in a quality reusable cup can significantly improve the quality (taste) of the product as well as the appeal of a place, service or event. Any company or destination looking to elevate overall appeal should at least pilot a reusable container scheme in place of current single-use versions. The trial cost-benefit ratio alongside feedback from staff and customers can more effectively inform sustainable business decisions. Reusable containers are used to promote high-quality products and experiences in Japan. If this practice is applied across wider consumer experiences, it could elevate destination branding and appeal.
日本語は英語の下にある。
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