NEWS - 1st Symposium

Report:entrepreneurs struggle to corporate restructuring in the affected areas(2)

Categories: 1st Symposium

Making our “hometown Kesennuma” sparkle

Representative Director of Hachiyo Suisan Co., Ltd./ Director of the Miyagi  Association
SHIMIZU, Toshiya


■ Reporter’s Company Overviewn
Establishment: 1972n
Stated capital: 20 million yenn
Annual turnover: 4 billion yenn
Number of employees: 165n
Business: Manufacturing and sale of processed sea foods (fermented squids, thick wakame leaves, vinegared seaweed, vinegared mackerel, bottled goods, etc.)n


Despite the fact that all of their six factories had been damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, operations were resumed within a year. Currently, their employees are all united to supply products throughout Japan. Moreover, they have newly established GANBAARE Co., Ltd., which produces unique bags from canvas fabric for aprons, and many people from inside and outside the prefecture visit its store “Gallery En”. Having adopted “regional recovery stems from our innovations: creating new values” as a slogan for activities of the Kesennuma branch of the Miyagi Association, they continue to live up to it for themselves.



Colleagues, will-power, and responsibility as our driving force


In ancient times, Kesennuma was called Kesema. The name is said to have derived from the word “kesemo” (meaning a port at the extremity in the Ainu language). Kesennuma Bay consisting of the ria coast is also one of the bases for the three major fishing grounds of the world. With the island of Oshima acting as a huge shield, Kesennuma is known to be a port town which does not get stormy even when a typhoon comes.
Fishery has always been the main industry since it is a “seaside town”. It is where commonly known good-quality fish such as tuna and skipjacks can be caught. Apart from fishery, the production of “miso (soybean paste), soy sauce, sake, and rice” is also thriving. The reason why the production of these four items is popular in Kesennuma is that they are eaten by fishermen on a voyage, who usually do not come home for approximately 40 days.
The most famous delicacy among Kesennuma’s processed sea foods is “fermented squids”. The reason why fermented squids have become a local specialty in Kesennuma is said to be that the leftovers of a large quantity of squids used as bait for the skipjack-fishing would usually be salted. Hachiyo Suisan Co., Ltd. also handles fermented squids, and we are now in a position to distribute the product to places throughout Japan after some hiatuses.
We had six factories at the time of the earthquake, but the head office factory among them was utterly destroyed. During the period of one and a half years after the earthquake, two factories were constructed, enabling us to reorganize the company. Since most factories had been built on the seaward side, a processing factory was constructed for this time also on the side along the mountain.
We had a lineup of 150 products before the earthquake and 70 products among them accounted for 70% of our sales. Since we are currently manufacturing only 25 products, I guess, we still have a long way to go.
Almost all of our factories/markets were badly affected by land subsidence, so we have elevated them by several centimeters. I was astonished by that this kind of work was not necessarily subsidized by the administration.
What motivated me most to recover from the earthquake was, sure enough, “colleagues” of the Association and my “employees”. Without support from the bonds with these people, I would have been wasted in despair and would not have been able to rouse myself. Another of my motivation derived from “will-power”. While our production was suspended, competitors had regained lost ground on us. All what I heard was bad news for us. My determination to get everything back on track was stronger than ever, quietly thinking, “Watch your step, or I will give a fit”. “Responsibility” of being called president was another motivation for me. I believe that these three factors, “colleagues”, “will-power”, and “responsibility”, were driving forces of my resolutions to march forward.


Making our “hometown Kesennuma” sparkle


I was on the verge of a breakdown, and it was my employees who supported me. As long as I had responsibility of being called president by these employees, it seemed natural that it was my duty to continue providing them with work.
Those whom I had dismissed temporarily after much agonizing helped clearing debris. However, raking up the products in a distinctive stench that we had manufactured with utmost effort, carrying them offshore by boat, and disposing of them by opening the packaging one by one were very depressing work. Nevertheless, approximately 60 employees gathered together everyday, and we all would eat the food that my family and our clerical staff had prepared.
Having eaten off the same trencher, I consider them my “comrades”. There is a pleasure in working together with these “comrades”. Surmounting difficulties with a joint effort brings about hope. This hope is precious. The earthquake was a dreadful thing for sure, but it has given me a feeling of reality that the company is now being operated in a new way.
Immediately after the earthquake, we established a company called GANBAARE Co., Ltd., which produces unique bags and pouches from canvas fabric of Kesennuma. This company is for “planting seeds” for the future. (On the day of its opening, GANBAARE-made pouches with various place names in Fukushima were put on sale, and the proceeds of 6,000 yen was donated to the Fukushima Association)
I declared in front of my employees that the company had been revived, but there was no job security whatsoever at that time such as working environment, welfare, etc. Only things that we had were a connection with people and our emotional bonds. Having said that, the management should not be too dependent on that sort of people’s goodwill, and what I believe my duty is as company director is creating a company with which employees can hope for a brighter prospect in their future.
The earthquake deprived precious lives of numerous people not only in Kesennuma but also along the Pacific coast. Many other people are still deeply affected by it and feeling that they cannot move on. We are duty-bound to protect people’s life and inject new life into local communities by bringing every individual’s irreplaceable ability into full play.
On the back of the packaging of our products, there is a message saying, “Our job is to produce a good flavor as well as to preserve it for the future. And also to preserve the scenery in which the flavor is produced. Our duty is to believe and keep believing that the flavor is of high-quality and that earnestly engaging in the production and producing the good flavor will serve the purpose in the restoration effort”. We keep writing the message in order not only to convey it to the customers who pick up and taste the product but also to remind ourselves of the meaning of what we do.
What is required for restoration are three things: “idea”, “technology (quality)”, and “surprise”. The first year was a year of expressing our appreciation. With the second year already passed, I believe this third year will be a year of “challenge” as well as of further stirring our enthusiasm for restoration. Hoping to make Japan as a whole a better place, we will continue working together with you in order to improve our community in which we feel we can protect “life”.

(Recorded by KOZUMI, Naoki, Secretariat of the Miyagi Association of Small Business Entrepreneurs)

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