Today’s amazing person used Matcha from Kyoto to develop a wealth of original menu items and spread traditional Japanese cafe culture across the globe.
The person we will introduce today is someone, who in one year opened a crepe shop and managed to garner 8000 subscribers from all around the world on Instagram, just through word of mouth. They are the owner and founder of the Matcha Crepe Shop, Kotobuki-sei-an, Senior partner Mr Sunaga. Relying solely on word of mouth, rather than the use of advertising methods such as advertising boards or handing out leaflets, boasts large queues daily, comprising of people from all over the globe.. But what is so amazing, and does the future hold more amazing products? We will ask their representative directly. （For a special reader present, please read until the very end!）
―A daily home life bathed in Matcha (traditional Japanese tea)
―The charm of the Egyptian national dish, Koshari.
―Japanese cafe worldwide strategy
【From a childhood surrounded by matcha, to a person spreading matcha around the world】
I was born in Kyoto Prefecture. I was born and raised in a town near to Uji, an area commonly known as the sacred land of matcha. So since I was a child I have been surrounded by matcha. When I was an infant, as I played, beside me my Grandmother would make all sorts of things from matcha, such as matcha dangos. So my daily life was full of matcha.
After graduating from Doushisha University in my hometown, I found myself looking for a job, but I wasn’t so concerned with which particular area I worked in, rather I just wanted it to be the best company in its field. So with this in mind I applied to various number 1 companies from many different industries, and the result was that I joined the motor manufacturing company, Nidec. Make no mistake, with a worldwide sales share of 80% it is definitely a number 1 company. After entering the company, day after day I felt intellectually stimulated and spent a large amount of my time studying. The company workers were all very serious people, and never messed around, even at drinking parties, instead sticking single-mindedly to the company’s fundamental goal of selling all across the world. When a new product came out we would earnestly think of the best way to sell it to the millions of people across the Earth and I had many heated discussions with seniors and colleagues alike. In my 6th year working at the company I was stationed in China, and there my personal world view was broadened. This is because I became able to see what a stay in Japan was like from the point of view of an overseas tourist. I suddenly realised how when I was in Japan my thoughts were so focused on the Japanese way, and how small a thing that was. When I thought about it from a worldwide perspective I truly realised how relatively small it was.
【First encounter with Koshari on an Egyptian trip】
In 2011 on a trip to Egypt I encountered the national dish of Egypt, Koshari. I was so charmed by the taste that without thinking I quit my job at the company and embarked on a new journey in Egypt to learn about Koshari. Without even knowing the language, but wrapped in a warm passion for Koshari I plunged into the local social world. After studying the making of Koshari in a local restaurant I returned to Japan and set up a Koshari Van.I wanted to spread the delicious taste of Koshari to my home country.
Actually, I still continue to run that Koshari van to this day, but somewhere along the way I became interested in sweets as well. So I thought to myself, there’s no specialist Matcha Crepe shop. So with a focus on Kyoto Matcha, I mixed Western crepes with Japanese Matcha to make what I thought would be a fascinating treat. There are many matcha wholesalers, so I went around visiting them, but eventually I settled on an old shop in Uji, which I had a prior relationship with. They gave their approval to my plan, and with the help of their high quality matcha, I was able to complete the development of my new products.My company’s product development all comes from the hard work and intelligence of our employees, producing and refining prototype after prototype, so everything is original. They have a flavour that begs you try them again. These recipes are impossible to copy, becau se they are the results of our unique ideas.
Kyoto Match Crepe
The reason for choosing to open our crepe shop in Asakusa was firstly, that it is a town with a traditional Japanese atmosphere which matches that of Matcha. Secondly, many fans of matcha from foreign countries travel to Asakusa, as it is a famous tourist sight seeing spot for experiencing Japanese culture. After opening our small crepe shop, we were quickly met with more matcha fans than I could have possibly imagined! There were many even people from Hokkaido and Okinawa, who came for fun, as well as tourists from Taiwan, China and South Korea. There was even a Japanese person who told us they had been working in Los Angeles, but wanted to trying eating one of our crepes so badly that they came back to Japan on a trip. As we didn’t have any form of advertisements, this was truly a happy surprise for us. From the bottom of my heart, I am really thankful that I was able to open a shop that brings such happiness to so many people. This is what I came to realise as I was making the sweets day in day out, and gradually little by little matcha has become a larger and larger part of my life. So I started to feel that I wanted spread the greatness of matcha far and wide. At that time I thought to myself that rather than just selling crepes, it would also be great to have a handmade drink. However, simple plain matcha wouldn’t be interesting or different. Matcha is a fascinating ingredient, as it can be added to, mixed with or combined with many other ingredients. Therefore, I wanted to show the world a new way of drinking matcha.
Kotobuki-sei-an’s drink menu is composed solely of our own flavours and the names of the drinks on the menu were thought up by our staff. Matcha ground in a stone pestle and mortar is the original way to enjoy it’s divine taste. When you go to Kyoto, this is my recommendation for enjoying matcha. Our original products are known as Mazetan (ma-zay-ta-n), which comes from the word from the Kyoto dialect for a mixed product. By writing it in Roman characters, it has a European feel to the sound and I think it’s quite a stylish name (laughs). It’s great fun to drink matcha mixed with other products at our shop. An especially popular product is Mascarpone Matcha Mazetan. Jellyttan, as the name suggests is matcha jelly, and is a drink with a truly refreshing flavour（Actually, the chief editor of Nikkan Sugoi Hito likes this so much that she repeatedly drank it!）. Aside from these, we also have drinks like peach matcha latte and sparkling matcha. Our products are all designed to be things that our customers will not have experienced before setting foot inside our shop. It is a menu full of drinks that once drank make you want to come again to try a different one.
Fundamentally the goal is that through Kotobuki-sei-an, people from all over the world can find a place for matcha in their daily lives. Naturally, the scent of matcha is also effective in creating a relaxing atmosphere, and the abundance of catechin in matcha gives it a powerful anti-aging effect. The people who have noticed these beneficial aspects of matcha have recently been increasing across the world. Just like how Japanese people have come to drink coffee regularly, I would like to help create an era where matcha similarly penetrates foreign markets. My dream is that large!
Of course, such a goal cannot be achieved simply by relying on the flavour of matcha, I think we must also spread the kind and gentle spirit of Japan that accompanies tea ceremonies and the making of matcha. At our shop our staff try to also keep in mind the importance of caring for the customer’s spirit, as well as their drink. That doesn’t mean that the customers are Gods in the eyes of the staff, but rather at the time they meet a bond is developed as fellow humans, and in that time and space we are able to transmit the kind and gentle spirit of Japan to our customers, through the service of matcha. Our current company is called First Step, a limited company, but I would like it if we always maintain a brave spirit, unafraid of stepping forwards and taking on new challenges. I hope that my staff are already working with such ideas to mind, and that whatever business stage we may step up on to, this will not change. I hope that through becoming acquainted with Kotobuki Sei-An the number of people interested in Japan will also increase.
【Special Reader Present：I read Nikkan Sugoi Hito！ Then you can get a 100 yen discount】
Born in Kyoto Graduate of Doushisha University
Limited Company First Step Senior Partner, Owner of Kotobuki-Sei-An
Owner of Kotobuki-Sei-An Crepe shop in Asakusa
Kanda 「Kotobuki-Sei-An Matcha」