HOME >Koichi Yamada: Sesame Oil Artisan who “stubbornly” maintains the traditional way of producing sesame products
Koichi Yamada: Sesame Oil Artisan
Koichi Yamada
Koichi Yamada: Current President of the Yamada Sesame Oil Company, who “stubbornly” maintains the traditional way of producing sesame products
I was born into a family who owned the sesame oil business. I started to help their business in my high school age and learned how to make it. After graduating from the university, however, I got employed in a big frozen foods company. My job was to sell frozen shrimps. At that time, we were bleaching shrimps in chemical solution, which did not make me feel good, but I thought I had to follow the business routine.
One day suddenly I realized that what I was doing was totally opposite to my grandfather’s teaching, which was to serve people by offering something good for their health. I quit the company and decided to follow the path of sesame oil production.
I dusted off the old equipment and started producing sesame oil with my wife. Initially I could produce only small amount and did not know how to sell the products. I did not make any profit for a couple of years and worked part time for a mover. With the encouragement of my wife to maintain the price that my high quality products deserved, I visited health food stores door to door to sell them.
Seven years had passed before people looked for healthy and authentic foods; my products started to sell much more. Big department stores and supermarkets as well as individual customers appreciated my products that are made in a henko way (“stubbornly” sticking to the traditional way).
In 2007, I opened a restaurant Piccoro Mondo Yamada, as I developed the idea of showing people how to eat sesame oil at home by offering the opportunities to taste it.
The Tohoku Earthquake of March 2011 left tremendous damages in many areas. The accident of the nuclear facility is not only is far from the total recovery, but also may continue causing many more cases of health impairments in future. Especially I worry its impact on the health of children, and I decided to do whatever I could to help them.
One of my projects is “Hello Farm Project,” which helps some farmers in the radiation-affected area of Fukushima to move to Kyoto and start farming again. Another is to measure the radiation level of all of the ingredients we use to produce sesame oil products and serve in our restaurants. We also opened another restaurant with a salon “gomacro” in Kyoto to serve safe and healthy organic food as well as hosting events with the goal of promoting healthy living, safe food and environment for the future of children, mothers, and everyone.