Takahashi Tokuji Shoten
Inauguration of the Higashi-matsushima Factory
It has been two years and four months since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Higashi-matsushima Factory, which the Takahashi Tokuji Shoten (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture) had been building in an industrial park in Higashi-matsushima City, has become fully operational, and an inauguration ceremony was held on July 5th.
As a Symbol of Light and Strength for the Disaster-affected Areas
About 300 people attended the ceremony. Among the participants were the company’s business partners, including the Seikatsu Club, the Shonai Midori Agricultural Cooperative Joint Rice Development Division, which rushed to the company to donate relief goods in the wake of the disaster, and volunteer organizations.
At the ceremony, participants watched a video showing the process of restoration since the time immediately after the disaster. Mr. Hideo Takahashi, President of Takahashi Tokuji Shoten, greeted the participants by saying, "You showed sincere kindness to the disaster-affected people and have continued to provide us with priceless support. When I recall the suffering at that time, I find myself close to tears." He moved on to a criticism of the current trend to conceal the realities of the earthquake and the nuclear disaster.
"In October 2011, we restarted our production of Otofu-age (in which minced fish and tofu are mixed and fried) and we are now celebrating the inauguration of our new factory.” Mr. Takahashi emphasized recovery from the disaster by saying, “I have been telling our employees that in order to bring light and encouragement to our local community we should recall our pain as we go forward with production. We would really appreciate everyone’s continuing support in the future."
Following Mr. Takahashi’s speech, six guests, including Mr. Hideyasu Abe, Mayor of Higashi-matsushima City and Mr. Koichi Kato, President of the Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative Union, made congratulatory speeches. They admired Mr. Takahashi's bold decision to restart his business and unanimously expressed their hopes for the future of the company by saying, for example, "We hope that you will lead the community as a symbol of restoration."
Support for Restoration from Many People
Two of the Takahashi Tokuji Shoten factories were totally destroyed, while the only remaining production line, on the first floor of the company headquarters, was inundated with mud. Employees of the company’s business partners and volunteers totaling 1200 people worked to remove the mud and clean up the production facilities, enabling the company to restart production with only one production line. The company subsequently bought land to build a new factory in an industrial park on high ground in Higashi-matsushima City, adjacent to Ishinomaki City. Initially, the construction was scheduled to finish by November 2011, but was severely delayed due to shortages of materials and other problems. Trial operations of the production line began at the end of May 2013. Machines were continuously adjusted to make the minced fish perfectly smooth. Finally, in mid-June, the factory became fully operational.
The Higashi-matsushima Factory is a one-story steel-frame structure with a floor space of about 3300 square meters. It is designed to be environmentally friendly, with light-emitting diode illumination and solar power generation. It also has a heating and cooling system which utilizes well water. The focus in the factory is on hygiene management, including the introduction of an antibacterial floor in the packaging room. The factory uses a variety of techniques for maintaining the freshness of ingredients.
After the earthquake, the number of employees decreased by half. The company now has 39 employees, including some who have been newly hired. “No matter whether the company was hit by the disaster or not, Takahashi Tokuji Shoten and the Seikatsu Club are inseparable after having built up our partnership over a long period of time,” said Mr. Koichi Kato. “On behalf of the 340,000 members of the Seikatsu Club, I would like to congratulate you on the inauguration of your new factory,” Mr. Kato continued encouragingly. “When I met Mr. Takahashi just after the disaster, he seemed to be wondering whether or not he should restart his business. Many people, however, gave him a supportive push. The Seikatsu Club was among these. Many members of the Seikatsu Club have been waiting for the minced fish products from the Takahashi Tokuji Shoten. Let’s keep on working together.”