The Voices of Zojirushi – Nao, Sales Associate Supervisor

Spring time is full of freshness, and so are the ideas we’ve recently heard from Nao, our Sales Associate Manager. Nao is based out of Torrance and her history of growing up and living in Japan and the United States offers us a unique perspective about Zojirushi across two countries!

We started with the good stuff when speaking with Nao, and that is…what’s your favorite Zojirushi recipe?

Butter mochi! It turned out great and a fellow employee recommended that I finish the butter mochi in the oven so the coconut on the top gets crispier. So good!

Butter mochi is a great recipe to make in our breadmakers. Are there other Zojirushi appliances that you like and would recommend to our customers?

Water boilers – they’re a luxury that goes unnoticed. At any time of the day, one press of the button gives you the perfect hot water for your needs.

Butter Mochi

How do you feel like that quality of the water boiler helps our customers, especially when you think about our company’s tagline – Inspirations from Everyday Life?

We continue to make products that makes life a little bit easier in this busy day in age. Plus the fact that we focus on high quality and stylish designs.

So how does that sense of ease, quality and stylishness translate into how you work with your customers and the role you have within the Zojirushi organization?

Sales associates work closely with retailers to determine their needs, answer their questions about our products and recommend the right solutions. We try to promptly resolve complaints and ensure maximum satisfaction. To achieve this, we stay up-to-date with product features and maintain high standards in customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is our first priority. It’s all about our corporate philosophy of Creating a Quality of Life.

It sounds like you’ve been inspired by your time at Zojirushi. How did you join the organization?

It just so happened that Zojirushi moved to Torrance when I was looking for a job.  I was familiar with Zojirushi since I was surrounded with Zojirushi products growing up.

Zojirushi’s discontinued air purifier

So, you grew up in the United States and Japan?

Yes, I have been to Japan many times. In fact, I have lived back and forth between the United States and Japan. I was born in Japan and first came to the United States when I was 4 years old. I lived here for 5 years and went back to Japan when I was 9. I was able to experience Japanese culture by attending local elementary school. At age 12, I came back here and stayed until I graduated college.  Then, I decided to live in Japan by myself. At first, I had a difficult time adjusting living in Japan all alone not knowing what to do next. But in the end, after 6 years, I loved it. The best part about Japan was the delicious food without spending too much money. My favorite food is sushi!

And are there any products that you think Zojirushi should make as part of their next innovations?

It’s not a new product but I would like the air purifier to come back. It feels good to have clean air in the room. I’m sure as Zojirushi grows, they’ll keep making new things with new idea.

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We strive for the same ideas that Nao brings to our organization–product innovation, customer service and a great working environment. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Nao. Stay tuned for more fun anecdotes with the rest of our team!

 

An Acquired Taste of Japan – Inago and Hachinoko!

Natto is an acquired taste. Fermented fish, fungi and vegetables are acquired tastes. But eating insects? Now that is a truly unique experience for much of the world!

Japan shares a heritage with other Asian countries where certain insects are eaten as a nutritious food source. There are a few common types of insects eaten in Japan including inago (rice grasshoppers) and hachinoko (wasp or bee larvae). Eating these insects has a long tradition, especially in Gifu and Nagano Prefectures which are located in the mountainous regions where fish were not abundant, and livestock was limited. These particular edibles are known to provide beneficial fat, protein and B vitamins.

Hachinoko

In lean times, inago and hachinoko supplemented many people’s diets, especially during their harvest in the cold months of winter and after the devastation of World War II. Following the mid-1900’s, when industrial pest control became more prevalent and when high-quality food was substantially available to the general population, the tradition of consuming inago and hachinoko lost favor. Today, consuming both of these insects is enjoying a resurgence, as they are readily available in packaged form and as artisanal chefs are looking at them as a sustainable and delicious food source.

Inago prepared as tsukudani, a traditional way of cooking with soy sauce, sugar, and sake, make crunchy snacks. They are often enjoyed with beer, sake or tea and as side dishes accompanying more traditional main dishes. Connoisseurs find inago have a mild, nutty flavor. Similarly prepared as tsukudani, hachinoko are softer and can be served with rice in dishes called hachinoko gohan and hebo gohemochi.

Inago

Both inago and hachinoko can be found online, at retailers, and sometimes even in vending machines in Japan. But the best place to eat them are at matsuri, or festivals, specifically celebrating these cultural traditions. In November, the Kushihara Hebo Matsuri held in Ena, Gifu Prefecture, hosts a competition among beekeepers as to who can cultivate and harvest the most hachinoko. The competitors show off their harvesting skills and ultimately, sell the fresh larvae to festival-goers. Plus, street food vendors make the best hachinoko dishes! The Tokyo Bug Eating Club is the place to sample inago, and they have events throughout the season where one can catch, cook and consume the grasshoppers.

No matter where you get them, we’d love to hear your story about the first time you sampled inago or hachinoko. Be sure to share it with us. And happy crunching!

Product Inspirations – Stainless Bottle (SJ-JS10)

Our large 1-liter capacity Stainless Bottle (SJ-JS10) is here, just in time for spring!

This new bottle is lightweight, compact and strapless, maximizing capacity while minimizing the space it takes up your bag. The twist-off lid functions as a standalone cup and lets you drink hot or cold liquids like you would in a teacup or mug, and conveniently allows you to let your beverage cool or warm to the temperature of your preference. The inner surface of the bottle utilizes an innovative double nonstick coating to enhance durability and provides greater protection of the stainless steel against salt-containing beverages like sports drinks.

Along with these unique features, this Stainless Bottle is made with high-quality, durable 18/8 stainless steel, and utilizes Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology. The air between the outer and inner layers of the stainless steel is removed so the heat is blocked from transferring through it, greatly minimizing the temperature change of your beverage.

This bottle is smart under the lid, too! It features an advanced stopper with a spout that is opened by a one-touch button, making pouring simple and mess-free. And pressing the close tab seals the spout. The extra-wide mouth accommodates full-sized ice cubes, which makes filling the bottle easy. The stopper and spout, as well as the other areas that come into contact with your beverage, are BPA-free. And as with all Zojirushi products, this bottle can easily be washed with warm water and mild dish detergent.

The Stainless Bottle (SJ-JS10) comes in two finishes, a classic Stainless and a bold Red with a fun camping print.

So, with a 1-liter bottle such as this, which favorite drinks would you carry around? We have so many to choose from! We always love a perfectly brewed cup of Hot Green Sencha Tea and classic British Tea. For a cold treat, we love this Shaka Plantation Tea which blends black tea and pineapple. And you can’t go wrong with Simply Iced Coffee!

No matter what you drink–water or tea or coffee–we know you’ll love carrying this stylish, versatile bottle wherever you go!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Saori!

We are enjoying a special treat this month as we get to know Saori, Zojirushi’s Recipe Tester & Developer. Her role at Zojirushi is as fun as it sounds! She develops and tests recipes under different conditions to make sure they turn out to be perfectly delicious when made in Zojirushi appliances. Too much water? Not enough electricity? The mix of ingredients not quite working? Saori takes all of the guesswork out of recipes so that when we make then, all we experience is “YUM!”

We caught up with Saori to talk about her creative inspirations and how they’ve influenced her as part of the Zojirushi team.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What types of foods do you love to eat?

I was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. My favorite food from Nagoya is kishimen, which is a broad and flat noodle in a broth loaded with katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and ankake supa, which is thick spaghetti sautéed and topped with a thick, spicy, blended tomato sauce and other toppings like sausage, hard-boiled eggs, and bell peppers.

Kishimen

How did your love of food, especially Japanese food, lead you to Zojirushi?

Well, the ability to use my experience and love of cooking as my job was the first thing that drew me to the company, but the longer I stay, the more I realize that I enjoy the core qualities of this organization, patience and generosity, just like the elephant on our logo.

Our corporate philosophy is Creating a Quality of Life. How does your position or your job function create a better quality of life for our customers?

I help develop and test recipes that use ingredients that can be easily found in local markets, with kitchen tools available in any home, using Zojirushi products. Through these recipes, I hope our customers can find not only the joy of cooking, but also the joy of creativity, while thinking about their own ways to personalize recipes to their preference. Creativity, quality and true to its values… that’s what I feel we offer here. If it weren’t for these qualities, my job as a recipe tester would not be necessary.

When we develop recipes, we need to thoroughly test, and that often means every model!

Much of our product design focuses on safety, usability, practicality, quality, craftsmanship and stylishness. Do you have a favorite Zojirushi product that you believe embodies these qualities?

The Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker BB-PAC20, because while it makes bread-making easy for anybody, it also allows me to be creative and make my own, unique recipes. Some of my favorites are the Cheese ‘n’ Onion Bread and the Fava Bean Risotto. It was something else!

And if you could dream up your own next-generation Zojirushi product, what would it be?

My first choice would be an ice cream and soft serve maker. A unit that would fit in the freezer and mixes the ingredients to make ice cream and soft serve. My second choice is an indoor smoker. I would like to try making smoked salmon, smoked chicken or ham at home!

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Saori’s ideas sound delicious to us, and we can’t wait to find out what new recipe she comes up with. Be sure to subscribe to Zojirushi 101, so you get the latest recipes from Saori, and stay tuned as we meet more of the Zojirushi team next month.

 

An Acquired Taste of Japan – Kusaya!

The tradition of eating fermented fish spans cultures from Scandinavia to Europe to Asia. We know of famous examples like garum, from ancient Rome, where small local fish were salted and fermented until they almost liquified. And of the famous Swedish surströmming, where Baltic herring are caught in the spring time, lightly salted and fermented in barrels for months.

Japan’s rich food culture, which prizes fish in all of its varieties, is famous for kusaya, a fermented, dried fish that has a mild taste but a most-definitely acquired smell!

Kusaya is made from small flying fish or mackerel. When made using traditional methods, the freshly caught fish is descaled by hand and then flayed open. The bones, entrails and blood are removed, and the inside of the fish is scrubbed many times in fresh water to remove any remnants. The opened fish is then soaked in a salt brine called “kusaya-jiru” for about 24 hours, then dried in the open air and hot sun for up to two days, before it’s stored in jars. Kusaya is unique in that the brine used to begin the fermentation process is the key to preserving the fish. Every family that makes kusaya in a traditional fashion closely guards their brine recipe. The brines are made of water and small amounts of salt to begin with, then reused for each batch of fish, with some brines lasting as long as 100 years! The brine smells of decay, similar to feces, and an overgrowth of bacteria, lending kusaya the aroma that many who have not grown up with this dish find hard to tolerate.

Fermenting fish is a wonderful way to preserve it and to augment and release the umami in the flesh. The fermentation process for kusaya uses the microorganisms in the salt brine to release glutamates from the proteins, sugars and fats in the fish’s meat. These glutamates are the building blocks of umami, the fifth taste in Japanese food culture, and a building block of dashi. Many Japanese eat kusaya with sake or other alcoholic beverages, as it is high in protein and calcium and pairs well with sharper flavors.

Kusaya can be purchased almost anywhere in Japan, most generally in canned or packaged form. But if you’re lucky enough to visit a traditional kusaya maker, overrule the smell around you and try this delicacy!

And don’t forget to share your story with us!