Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nabeyaki Ramen in Susaki City

Nabeyaki Ramen is served in an
earthenware pot with boiling broth.
   There is a project underway to nationally promote Susaki City, located in the Midwest of Kochi Prefecture, by campaigning for its Nabeyaki Ramen. Nabeyaki Ramen is ramen served in an earthenware pot with boiling broth. A staff member from KIA and a CIR from China visited the Susaki City Tourism Association to interview one of the project’s key people to hear the story behind Nabeyaki Ramen.
“Project X”
   This key person is Takeshi Matsuda, who was an employee at the Susaki Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2001. At that time, he was worried about the future of the city since an expressway was scheduled to open the next year. “People will probably just pass by Susaki if we do nothing”.
Takeshi Matsuda, one of the members of
“Project X”
   The expressway that extended to Susaki City was planned to stretch further west. Mr. Matsuda and 11 other Susaki citizens decided to do something to protect the local economy before the expansion of the expressway took place.
   All of these members were regular volunteers in Susaki, so they had many ideas, but they had little time left before the expressway opened. Finally they decided that the local specialty of the time “Nabeyaki Chinese noodles” would catch people’s attention.

   Mr. Matsuda made a phone call to the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum to see if there was already something similar to Nabeyaki Ramen in Japan. When he heard the answer “No”, he was absolutely certain that it would succeed.

   Their challenge started with the slogan “Put Susaki on the map with Nabeyaki Ramen”. They named their group “Project X”, a name that came from a popular NHK TV show at the time.

   Mr. Matsuda recalled that it started booming when an article about “Project X” showed up in the local newspaper, Kochi Shinbun. “Once the article appeared in Kochi Shinbun, it was brought up on a local TV program and then was broadcast nationwide”.
   Many people in and out of Kochi flocked to the city because Nabeyaki Ramen appeared in the media. This brought an increase in sales, and people who ate Nabeyaki Ramen also spent more money in other shops and restaurants. Five years had passed since the project started, and the foundations for a thriving local industry had been laid.
Flag of Nabeyaki Ramen.
If you see the flag
in front of a restaurant,
you can eat Nabeyaki
Ramen there.
   The project has affected not only the economy but also the development of personal character. Mr. Matsuda says, “Our project has raised the local youth. They now take it upon themselves to think about and carry out regional revitalization plans that use local mejika , a kind of bonito fry, and utsubo , moray eel”.
   It has been 12 years since the project began. Now “Project X” is looking for a location in Tokyo to continue promoting the charm of Nabeyaki Ramen and Susaki nationwide. Their challenge will not end yet!
It looks like Chinese earthenware pot noodles
   We tried Nabeyaki Ramen for ourselves at a restaurant near Susaki Station after leaving the tourism association. The CIR from China said that Nabeyaki Ramen looked like Chinese earthenware pot noodles and would suit the Chinese palate. Additionally, the only meat in Nabeyaki Ramen is chicken, so it can be enjoyed even by people who can not eat other meats due to religious reasons. Why not go to Susaki and try “the hottest Ramen in Japan?”
(Interviewer: Liu Miao)

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