Terrie's Take: Ramen, 2.5m Bowls a Day, Japanese Air Guitar Champion, Chinese Tourists, GDP, and Taxes!

Terrie's Take - AkihabaraNews.com

Terrie’s Take is a selection of Japan-centric news collected and collated by long-time resident and media business professional Terrie Lloyd. AkihabaraNews is pleased to present Terrie’s learned perspective; we all could use another take on the news - here’s Terrie’s:

• • •

Terrie’s Take on September 1, 2014

Feature:

  • Ramen, 2.5m Bowls a Day and Other Interesting Stats

Briefs:

  • Concern about ongoing GDP contraction
  • Japanese woman wins world Air Guitar contest
  • Chinese are the top spending tourists
  • Amazon duking it out with local publishers
  • Tax man chippeth away

Ramen, 2.5m Bowls a Day and Other Interesting Stats
There can be few more satisfying meals in Japan than a steaming (or chilled) bowl of ramen. Pork, miso, soy, salt, curry, or vinegar flavored. Thick or thin, al dente or soft. Vegetarian, chicken, seafood, or strictly Halal. Garnished with pickles, veges, kimuchi, or even cheese. Eaten straight with pepper, garlic paste, or sheets of nori. Served in a luxury hotel, a ramen specialty shop, a streetside yatai, or in a polystyrene cup at home or on the sidewalk outside a convenience store. All we can say is, "yum!" 

We won't go into whether ramen is actually a "food", in the sense that it nourishes and supports life. In truth there isn't much in a basic serving other than carbs, fat, and salt, but if you have nothing else, yes, it will keep you going for a while. For a normally healthy person, certainly a bowl a week isn't going to hurt, and indeed, there are people who have survived for years on ramen and nothing else. Take the case of 17-year old Georgi Readman, from the Isle of Wight, UK, who has been eating only ramen for the best part of the last 13 years. Apparently she has a selective eating disorder that makes ramen the only food she can eat. Doctors say that she is malnourished and has the body of an 80 year old, but looking at her interview and photos, we are amazed at how normal she looks. http://nydn.us/1vA4dvK.

Wholesome or not, much the same as manga and anime, ramen is one of those compelling aspects of Japanese culture that has successfully undergone the transplant overseas. Instant ramen for example is now consumed in far greater quantities abroad than it is in Japan, and there are probably 3-4 times more instant ramen producers abroad than there are here in Japan. Due to its ubiquity, we have often wondered how much ramen is consumed around the world. There are some reliable numbers on instant ramen, from its inventor Nisshin, but very little hard data on all the other forms. So we thought it would be fun to do some extrapolation of our own.

Non-instant ramen
========================
* No. of ramen restaurants in Japan: No one really knows, since ramen restaurants have a low hurdle to start up, and seemingly go out of business just as easily. But one reliable and relatively complete source of restaurant numbers is the nation's largest directory for restaurants, Gurunavi. According to their website (www.gnavi.co.jp), there were 49,346 listings Japan-wide as of today, of which 9,147 are in Tokyo (i.e., doesn't include Kanagawa, Saitama, or Chiba).

* No. of ramen restaurants in the world (outside Japan): Yeah, this is much harder and would have to be a wild guess. But based on "ramen" being the familiar Japanese form of noodles and so excluding all the local variants in China and SE Asia, then we would guess that there are somewhere between 30,000-50,000 restaurants around the world. We say this because Yelp tells us that most major cities in North America and Europe have 100-1,000 restaurants each, and we imagine ASEAN and North Asian countries (ex-China) would be similar. There are about 100 cities in these regions populated by more than 1m inhabitants, so that's roughly 200 restaurants x 100 cities = 20,000, then double that for all the smaller locations. Since Japan's top 5 ramen restaurants internationally only have around 1,500 outlets between them, we guess that most all the world's ramen shops are being run by small independent operators.

* Average ramen serving: Depends on where you eat, but on average the average serving in Tokyo is between 150-200gms. Some outlets serve ramen mountains up to 600gm, and many restaurants allow customers to reorder just the noodles only to have a second helping.

* Number of meals served a day in Japan: If you take the average ramen restaurant with 10-20 seats, they are probably serving between 50-100 customers a day. Obviously some do dramatically more while others less. But if we take 50 customers a day as a reasonable average, then Japan serves up about 2.5m bowls of ramen a day.

* Volume of ramen consumed annually in Japan. If you take 50,000 stores x 50 customers x 200gm x 365 days = 180,000 tons of ramen a year.

Instant ramen
========================
Then of course there is instant ramen, invented by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nisshin Foods and today the world's largest producer of instant noodle products.

* According to the World Instant Noodles Association (don't laugh, there really is such an organization), the international instant noodle market in 2013 grew about 2.5%, to about 105.6bn servings.

* Of the main consuming countries, China was top in sheer volume, with 46.2bn meals, followed by Indonesia (14.9bn), Japan (5.52bn), Vietnam (5.2bn), India (4.98bn), USA (4.35bn), and South Korea (3.63bn).

* Perhaps surprisingly, although at 7th place in global consumption, South Korea had the highest per capita intake, at 69 meals annually. In comparison, the Japanese eat around 46 ramen servings annually.

You would think that Nissin Foods, as the inventor of instant ramen would have a stranglehold on the market. But in fact the company owns surprisingly little of the international market. Most likely this has been a function of its slow and cautious approach in setting up production and marketing units abroad, especially in emerging markets where demand for instant ramen has boomed because it is so cost-efficient. The company's annual report last year shows that only 13.4% of sales were to international markets, and in fact, this number dropped 0.6% over the previous year. Clearly Nisshin needs to try a bit harder.

Instead, its noodles in the international market are getting eaten by other Japanese firms (Sanyo's Sapporo Ichiban and Toyo Suisan's Maruchan), European firms such as Nestle's Maggi brand, Chinese players with local brands, and Korean firms. For example, in Mongolia, a market that is growing rapidly, 40% market share is held by Korea's Nongshim Co. The firm reckons that advertising, shop displays, and shopper tasting events have all been integral parts of their winning strategy.

Yup, hungry shoppers at the mall and plenty of fragrant steaming ramen tasting samples -- sounds like a winning marketing strategy to us.

Concern about ongoing GDP contraction
Although this news item from the Economist is a couple of weeks old, the commentary has been mentioned in so many follow-up stories by other media, that we thought we should run the original. Basically the Economist is asking whether the ongoing contraction in GDP jives with the optimism that the Abe government is still showing for its reflation strategy. Although economists expected the first quarter after the consumption tax increase to be bad, they were hopeful that things would have turned around by now. Instead, the economy is still in reverse, largely as a result of shrinking real wages. Analysts are now openly concerned that Abenomics may not be able to cause the trickle down that was hoped for, and instead of recirculating corporate profits, consumers in general will simply reduce spending. (Source: TT commentary from Economist.com, Aug 16, 2014) - http://econ.st/1pgy9EH

Japanese woman wins world Air Guitar contest
We've never really figured out what the attraction of air guitar performances is, let alone the incentive to hold and/or attend an international contest dedicated to pretending to play a guitar. But some people obviously like it enough that they will watch and thereby draw in the sponsors. The 19th Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu, Finland took place a couple of days ago and the winner was a 19-year old Japanese woman named Nanami Nagura. She apparently took the trophy for her stage athleticism and theatrics, which we think would have looked just as good if she'd had ice skates on. ***Ed: We have included a youtube.com clip that shows one of her performances -- a bit noisy for the office, so turn the sound down.** (Source: TT commentary from dw.de and youtube.com, Aug 30, 2014) - http://bit.ly/VZwIDk (news link) http://bit.ly/1uenA9O (Youtube link)

Chinese are the top spending tourists
The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) has released a Q2 survey of 6,600 tourists. In the period April-June this year, the average Chinese visitor spent JPY130,293 over and above their travel costs, versus an average spend of JPY54,900 by all other nationalities. Thais were the next biggest spenders, at JPY59,279 per head, then Vietnamese at JPY58,726. In contrast Americans spent just JPY29,425 each. ***Ed: The reason, we believe, is because the average Chinese visitor is buying goodies for family and friends at home, and therefore is more likely to be buying high-end electronics, fashion goods, and health-care products in multiple unit quantities.** - http://bit.ly/1lpuPMt

Amazon duking it out with local publishers
Following similar controversy in the USA and Europe, Amazon is now the center of complaints by a group of Japanese publishers who claim that the company is strong-arming them over commissions and contract terms. At the center of the dispute is Amazon's new rules which rank publishers and the exposure they get, using a 4-point system. Abroad, Amazon has been accused of delaying book releases and boycotting authors managed by publishers in dispute with the firm. ***Ed: That kind of monopolist behavior will cause unholy hell here in Japan, where publishers really know how to curry public support. Amazon needs to be careful it doesn't get impaled by a law suit or consumer boycott over unfair business practices.** (Source: TT commentary from businessinsider.com, Aug 29, 2014) - http://read.bi/1lpuPfg

Tax man chippeth away
Now that we are entering a period of unprecedented fiscal risk-taking by the government, it is only natural that the Finance Ministry will find ways to claw back more tax. The latest scheme, which thankfully currently only targets large companies, is to reduce tax carry forwards from the current 80% to 60%. The government figures that tax carry forwards for all companies cost it about JPY2trn in lost income each year, so the new rate will yield somewhere around JPY300bn additional tax. As a sop, the government will at the same time extend the tax carry forward period beyond the current 9 years. (Source: TT commentary from asia.nikkei.com, Aug 30, 2014) - http://s.nikkei.com/1zYRqAF

• • •

That was Terrie's Take.

What's yours? 
Let us know down below!

Source: 

Related Articles



Yesterday, Mos Burger, the Japanese burger chain, released some new items for their famous rice burger series.

One of them surprised us a lot. The Sabamiso Rice Burger might look like a very new concept for those living overseas, but actually it's simple and old - it is just made from the favorite Japanese lunch combination: Makerel cooked in miso based broth with some fine strips of leek as a topping and white rice - and put into a sandwich.

In Japan, there are lots of restaurants offering an all-you-can-eat or all-you-can-drink service, which means you can eat as much Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ), sushi, alcoholic drinks or sweets as you want (menu differs depending on the restaurant) for a certain amount of time. However, we have never heard of an All-you-can-eat Convenience Store…

Yoriko Takahashi - April 07, 2014

At the convenience store chain, Ministop, now you can buy a savory Japanese Okonomiyaki that you can casually eat with one hand.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish (sometimes referred to as a Japanese savory pancake) that you cook on a hot griddle and eat with a lot of special Okonomiyaki sauce, fish flakes, mayonnaise, and green dried seaweed on top. It's tough to eat it with only one hand, but Ministop made it possible to do that with their newly released product called Tsukimi-yaki.

Lotte Fit's recent cutest, oddest, and fluffiest commercial

House Wellness Food today released a new energy drink called SAMURIDE ENERGY DRINK produced with "Japan" as the theme.

Speaking of energy drinks available in Japan, foreign products like Red Bull and Monster Energy, come to mind first if you live here. Of course, there are many old school longtime energy drinks that exist here like Lipovitan D, Tiovita and Alinamin V, however it's hard to think of any "fashionable" Japanese energy drink brand easily.

Nestlé Japan is now selling 2 premium KitKat products, "KitKat Otona no Amasa Feuillantine" and  "KitKat Otona no Amasa Feuillantine Almond" exclusively at Seven Eleven stores in Japan.

KitKat's Otona no Amasa series is made for grown-ups and not overly sweet (Otona no Amasa means "Sweetness for Adults" in English).

KitKat Otona no Amasa Feuillantine contains Feuillantine, ultra-thin pieces of French baked pastry, cocoa wafer, and rum powder.

Yoriko Takahashi - March 10, 2014

Japan is awesome especially when it comes to food, culture, entertainment, and of course, geeky techie things, however Japan is not awesome at all regarding the coffee situation. It is usually very bitter or extremely watered down and diluted. One of the most popular types is called "American" at a regular cafe. If you order this, you're basically getting bitter coffee diluted with hot water.

The perfect toy for surviving the brutally hot Japanese summer will be released by Takara Tomy Arts on May 22. It is the "Tsumeta Oicino" compact frozen drink machine.

"Tsumeta Oicino" is a created word making Tsumetai (cold) and Oishii (delicious) sound like Italian language words.

You can easily make an original frozen drink at home using coffee, milk, maccha, and strawberries.

You cannot but say Kawaii! when you first meet.

Circle K Sunkus is going to release a steamed bun collaboration for Doraemon's upcoming first 3DCG movie, STAND BY ME Doraemon. It is called Doraemon-man.

This doraemon face-shaped steamed bun filled with sweet custard cream will be out on August 19, and only 400,000 buns will be available.
 

  • Price: 180 yen

 

SanktGallen, a microbrewery from Atsugi, Kanagawa prefecture, is going to release Sakura-mochi flavored beer -  called "Sakura" - in a limited quantity on February 27.

Sakura-mochi is a seasonal rice cake filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in preserved cherry leaf. Less hops are used for this Sakura beer to maximize the Sakura flavors extracted from cherry blossom petals and leaves.

Price: ¥450 (330ml)

Yoriko Takahashi - February 21, 2014

No words are needed to explain how cute they are!

It's awesome to see the cuteness of cats become doubled when they are on rice. Neko-Sushi… It is a simple work of photoshopping, however, it will give you a warm feeling every time you look at them.

Neko-Sushi is available in 2 sets of postcards (Set A and Set B). Each set features 10 cards (14cm x 14cm).

Guaranteed to make many smiles! :)

Valentine's day is just around the corner.

Keystone Technology's LED vegetable garden system is a cultivation system for indoor plant factories which uses LED lighting instead of sunlight. The most defining feature of the system on display at the company's showroom in Yokohama is its 3-dimensional use of space.

It says American style but REALLY??

Freshness Burger today released a doubtful burger called - Pizzaburg American Style.

Pizzaburg is a burger that looks like a pizza but tastes like a burger, and you eat it with a fork and knife. A beef patty, sunny-side up egg, lettuce, tomato, and cheese are on the fresh focaccia. That's served topped with bacon bits, fried onion and brown sauce.

We reported about Pikachu Cafe yesterday and lots of our readers seemed to be very excited about its cute dishes. How about My Melody Cafe for those who like Sanrio Company's characters?

Pages