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Stories of the Yamada Sesame Oil Compnay
The First Henko “stubborn” President
The first “henko” president of Yamada Sesame Oil Company, Yutaka Yamada, grandfather of the current president, moved to Katsura, Kyoto, after visited by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Yutaka became a driver of a newly opened railway that operated between Osaka and Kyoto. He loved his job, however, his health deteriorated over time. When he was searching for a way to regain his health, he met Mr. Sakurazawa, who was the founder of the Macrobiotic Diet.
Through the practice of Macrobiotic Diet, he regained his health. Glad to see this positive result, Mr. Sakurazawa suggested Yutaka to produce something that serves people and society. That is how the first henko president started to produce sesame oil.
In the beginning Yutaka not only produced sesame oil but also Japanese noodles such as soba and udon by milling flour by himself. He also cultivated rice, for which he dug a well as he wanted to secure safe and clean water for his rice.
Yutaka was totally henko “stubborn” in the sense that he did not compromise in order to produce safe and chemical-free products that serve people and society.
Grandmother making sesame paste
granma Although Yutaka Yamada, grandfather of the current president started producing sesame oil, it was Yutaka’s wife, Sumi, who used to make sesame paste. One needs to have a lot of patience to make sesame paste as the sesame seeds should be poured to the stone grinder little by little so as not to be stuck inside the device. However, Yutaka was too impatient for this job and naturally his wife Sumi took that responsibility.
She collected the sesame paste that came out of the stone grinder with spatula and poured it to the containers. She was very careful and patient in every step. Her grand son, the current president, used to spend a lot of time watching her and it was his joy to taste the fresh sesame paste that had a subtle sweet taste until he could not eat dinner!
A wood fired oven for roasting sesame seeds
20 years go, the current henko president Koichi Yamada purchased a huge oven for roasting sesame seeds. This device has propellers that stir sesame seeds while fire underneath roasts them.
However, Koichi found that the seeds were roasted unevenly, which is a big problem. This oven is huge enough to be able to roast 36 kg of sesame seeds. However, a subtle arrangement of the angle of propellers was required to roast sesame seeds evenly.
After pondering how to solve this problem for many days, he got the idea of pouring black sesame seeds into the mass of white sesame seeds to see the flow of the seeds inside the oven. That is how he found a way to adjust the angle and size of propellers finally after the struggle of 6 months.
Koichi so stubbornly committed to producing a best kind of sesame products and his love for this oven will enable the company to keep producing the sesame products he feels proud of for many decades to come.
After the nuclear accident in 2011
granma The current henko president Koichi Yamada recollects: “I was demonstrating how to grind sesame seeds at a department store in Tokyo when the huge earthquake in northern Japan shook almost the half of Japan. It took long time before the shaking finally stopped. That was the Great Tohoku Earthquake followed by the tsunami and the nuclear accident in Fukushima. I felt so powerless facing the grand power of nature. On the TV, they kept saying that there wouldn’t be any immediate risk or harm to us due to the nuclear accident. However, what I saw in the bullet train coming back to Kyoto were young mothers and their children fleeing to the southern parts of Japan. I thought many others would remain in Fukushima due to lack of information, although they might have been heavily affected by the radiation. I pondered what a private company could do facing this challenge. I decided to purchase a device to measure the radiation level of all the ingredients of our products. It cost six million yen; however, this matter of radiation was so crucial that I even started participating in a study circle to know more about its actual and potential risk on the health of people, land, and sea. That is when I opened the gomacro salon in Kyoto to address important messages and deliver them to the world. I hope that gomacro salon will contribute to disseminate all the useful information on food additives, safe environment, and how to live a safe, healthy, and happy life.”