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The Experience of Accommodating the Food-Culture Diversity of Inbound Tourists Leading to a New Success

People

The Experience of Accommodating the Food-Culture Diversity of Inbound Tourists Leading to a New Success

The KAMOGAWA BAKERY opened in November 2020 at the corner of Kawaramachi and Marutamachi, and is actively advancing to realize the Mind Our Tourism agenda for sustainable tourism in Kyoto by accommodating food-culture diversity including veganism and halal, taking measures to reduce the environmental burden, and installing a non-contact system adapted to today’s need for safely living in the post-COVID world. Entrepreneur Shin Miyazawa spoke about his motivations and how he came to open this bakery after running a ramen shop popular among tourists from abroad. 

Respecting diverse food cultures to make a shop for everyone

Mr. Miyazawa’s Japan Food Entertainment Co., Ltd. has been engaged primarily in businesses catering to travelers from overseas. About 80% of the customers of its ramen shop MENBAKA and about 99% of the people who came to experience making ramen at RAMEN FACTORY were tourists from overseas. For this reason, these businesses were adversely affected by the pandemic, and both were closed from April 2020. (*MENBAKA reopened in March 2021.) Mr. Miyazawa describes how he felt at the time: 
“The cherry blossoms looked gray to me. They were supposed to look beautiful, but they didn’t look that way at all.”  
 
But feeling that he could not just sit down and wait, Mr. Miyazawa decided to start a new business catering to people living in Japan. It was a bakery. A bakery was bound to meet a lot of competition in Kyoto where bread culture is well established, so Mr. Miyazawa needed to consider ways to distinguish the business from others through specialization, and that was how the KAMOGAWA BAKERY, a bakery with bagels as its key bread, was born. 
 
The bakery offers a wide variety of bagels and bagel sandwiches, and also plain breads and various stuffed and dressed breads. Notably, eight out of ten items are vegan-friendly, and six out of ten are halal. 
“I wanted to make a place where everyone could enjoy dining together. It was in pursuit of this goal that I placed importance on food-related diversity at the ramen shop, offering vegan-friendly and halal menus, and it was the same with the bakery. I wanted it to be a bakery that respects food-culture diversity.” 
 
Yet bread typically uses a lot of milk, eggs, and butter. Was it not difficult for Mr. Miyazawa to make the bakery menu vegan-friendly? 
 
“Bagels are vegan-friendly to begin with, as they don’t use eggs, milk, or butter. So they were compatible with what we wanted to do. The plain bread was tricky, though. There has been great enthusiasm for high-quality plain bread in the recent years, and bakers have been competing to make the most sumptuous loaves by using lots of fresh cream and butter. It took our artisans a lot of effort to make plain bread that tastes good without any of these ingredients.” 
 
KAMOGAWA BAKERY’s breads that do not use any dairy products or eggs, beginning with the plain loaves that were the result of a lot of trial-and-error, are appreciated not only by vegans but also by people with allergies. 
 
“It is said that one to two percent of the Japanese population has allergies. And it is common for children to be allergic to eggs and milk. Some customers had not been able to eat bread because of allergies, so they were very happy that they could eat the bread we bake. So, the knowledge and experience related to diversity in food that I had gained helped us to secure Japanese customers as well.”  
Mr. Miyazawa says, however, that the bakery does not exactly trumpet its vegan-friendliness or halal-ness. 
 
“I’m not a vegan myself, so I could feel a little reserved about entering a place that loudly declares that it is vegan-friendly. I wanted the bakery to be a place where anyone could enter easily. I thought it would be fine if people first recognize the place simply as a bakery that sells good bread, and then notice that it is vegan-friendly and think about someone they know (that’s vegan). Then they could buy some bread for that person, or just tell that person about the place. I thought that that is the best way for the place to become known and gain more customers.” 
 
Mr. Miyazawa says that he thought the same way when he was running the ramen business. Then too, the idea was to “make it a place that anyone could come in easily.” 
 
“The ramen business became a business catering to travelers from overseas as a result of trying to make a place that anyone could enjoy. Creating multi-language menus and setting up cashless payment and Wi-Fi was just part of this effort. It was not that I originally wanted to create a business catering specifically to travelers from overseas. I just wanted to create a place that people from overseas as well as Japan could enjoy.” 
 
 
Understanding the various cultures and daily-life practices of tourists from around the world, and improving the quality of one’s products and services with the spirit of hospitality—this is a good example of a business becoming loved by many inbound tourists as a result of realizing the Mind Our Tourism agenda, and then harnessing the knowledge and experience acquired this way to, in turn, appeal to Japanese people. Mr. Miyazawa’s attitude and many efforts in building these businesses may have some things other entrepreneurs will discover worth emulating. 

Ahead of others in protecting the environment and adapting to the “with coronavirus” age

Mr. Miyazawa is also actively engaged in efforts to protect the environment, which is another thing emphasized in the Mind Our Tourism agenda. 
 
“Through my interaction at the ramen shop with tourists from other countries, I noticed a difference in awareness between Japan and the West concerning environmental issues. We used to use plastic containers, but many travelers from Western countries who saw this were like, ‘Are you still using plastic?’ So we began to reduce plastic waste and also switch to green electric power.” 
 
In order to reduce plastic waste, KAMOGAWA BAKERY uses paper bags, paper straws, and paper cups that do not need plastic lids. The bakery is also contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions by using green electric power and by taking part in the shift toward less meat consumption. 
“Sustainable business is impossible from now on without making serious efforts to protect the environment. I think what is more ideal than just CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or volunteer activities is to build sustainable businesses well-integrated with eco-conscious efforts and, by doing so, bringing together people who share these values and generating ripple effects.” 
 
When asked about people’s reactions to his efforts, Mr. Miyazawa said that the efforts create an added value for his customers, and that he feels that the area around the bakery has high SDGs-related awareness, there being an elementary school and many people who care about education. He also said that it is important to promote not only the customers’ but also the staff’s awareness. His active efforts for the SDGs are a part of employee education that will ultimately lead to the securement of good human resources. 
 
The KAMOGAWA BAKERY is also ahead of others in efforts to curb the spread of COVID. There are no tongs in the bakery. Instead, the customers use a touch panel to order items of which samples are displayed in a showcase, and the payment is done without the staff using their hands. The purpose is to completely eliminate contact between the customers and staff. It is a system adapted to today’s “with coronavirus” age, and it also helps to reduce food loss because, unlike usual bakeries, there is no need to line up many of the same items on the shelves. 

Continuing to make changes with others who share the same vision

Even though the businesses catered to inbound tourists were practically wiped out by the pandemic, Mr. Miyazawa just continued to do what he could. Where did his motivation come from? 
 
“As an entrepreneur, one could either reduce the size of the business to avoid going into the red, or invest even more to expand and evolve. I could have chosen to do the former, but that would have meant parting ways with the incredible people who worked for me. In order to survive together, I had to invest and start something new.” 
 
The opening of the first KAMOGAWA BAKERY at Kawaramachi-Marutamachi was followed by a second one in February 2021, this time in Zeze, Shiga prefecture. Mr. Miyazawa also plans to set up a central kitchen and begin franchising in the future. 
 
“Entrepreneurs with SDGs-related awareness are increasing, so I want to bring together people who share the same vision and continue to expand and evolve businesses using the know-how I’ve acquired so far. When inbound tourism comes back, I hope the bakery will become a place that is balanced and harmonious—a place where both people from overseas and Japanese people can enjoy together.” 
 
Mr. Miyazawa, who has built businesses with the hope of making places for everyone to enjoy food together, envisions a future in which Kyoto tourism will harmonize with the daily lives of local residents when tourism from overseas returns to Kyoto again. 
Code of Conduct for Sustainable Tourism in Kyoto
Kyoto City and Kyoto City Tourism Association have laid down the Code of Conduct for Sustainable Tourism in Kyoto to be cherished and implemented by all people involved in tourism in Kyoto. Together with the tourism industry and its workers, and the residents, let us realize sustainable tourism in this city.