The Guardian of Nori Seaweed that Keeps Up Its Quality
Yamamoto Noriten enjoyed a loyal patronage of the people of Edo, so much so that since its founding in 1849 people said, “When it comes to nori, it’s Yamamoto.” In 1869, exactly 20 years since the company’s opening, the household of the Emperor Meiji placed an order with the company for some souvenir from the “Eastern Capital” (Tokyo) for Kyotoites when the emperor visited Kyoto, his home. It was at this time that Tokujiro came up with an idea to season toasted nori and commercialized Ajitsuke (seasoned) Nori.
Later, Tokujiro began selling seasoned nori in bottles, to an enthusiastic reception. Bottled seasoned nori, something good to go with plain rice that was always available, was extremely innovative at the time and brought a major change to the Japanese family table. Yamamoto Noriten has been the leading brand in its field ever since. It drives the industry to this day.
There are reasons why Yamamoto Noriten has been favored so much by customers for so long other than its capability to introduce innovative products. Its greatest strength is its technique to grade its nori in accordance with stringent criteria. Grading categories are diverse including melt in the mouth, taste, color tone and shape. Nori that has undergone the skilled technician’s taxing check is eventually sorted out into even more finely defined grades.
Yet, of the company’s several hundreds of employees, only one assumes the responsibility of product grading. The pride that Yamamoto Noriten holds in grading comes from the philosophy deep inside the company’s DNA. The stringent grading criteria were a system that Tokujiro, the second-generation head of the company, devised for the first time in the world. And Tokujiro, the third-generation head, was referred to as the “god of nori” who was by far the best in Japan in grading nori. The legend has it that “he grew up in nori and died in nori.”
Even today, in addition to Ajitsuke Nori, Yamamoto Noriten still comes up with one new product after another, including Otsumami Nori (snack nori), which is bonito shavings, wasabi, etc. sandwiched between nori, and Nori Chips, also a snack. What remains unchanged in any age are the company’s unshaken confidence and pride in its product’s quality that are in its very foundation.