Amamoto Ryuji:Thank You for Your Kindness!

Authors: Go Chengdu

2017-02-14

Okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese vegetable pancake, prevails among the common people in the Kansai region, Japan. Specialty stores that sell Okonomiyaki are seen everywhere in Japan. There had not been many stores like that in Chengdu by the fall of 2013 when Amamoto Ryuji, who was originally from Mie Prefecture, first came to the city.
34-year old Amamoto Ryuji runs a vintage-style Okonomiyaki store in a night market near the Eastern Campus of Sichuan Normal University. He calls himself "Long Ge" and has attracted many fans and followers on Chinese social networks.
"I wanted to visit the western part of China a few years ago when I was working in Beijing." That thought actually brought him to Chengdu. Because of the beautiful environment and hospitable people in the city, he wanted to settle down not long after he arrived. To stay in Chengdu, he had to find something to live on. Amamoto remembered that when he was a child, his father often made Okonomiyaki at home, so he decided to make use of his cooking skills and open a Okonomiyaki store.
In order to "serve Chengdu people with authentic Japanese food that they've never tasted before and make more contributions", he conducted a simple and quick market research: If he opens a store in the downtown area, the rent is too expensive for him and it's difficult to purchase ingredients he needs in the neighborhood. But if he opens a store somewhere near a university, he can get his supplies quite easily and have better access to students with open minds. After serious consideration, he decided on the location.
Heat the pan, sprinkle the oil and wait for the appropriate temperature. Then pour the batter onto the pan, fry the batter until one side becomes golden and turn it over to cook the other side. After the batter is well done, place it on a plate and add salad dressing, nori and Katsuobushi… Amamoto repeats the same routine every day, except for Mondays on which he closes the store to enjoy some leisure time. Adhering to the spirit of Japanese craftsmen, he is serious about cooking well every single dish.
As is shown in Japanese dramas, merchants in Japan come together to try to find solutions when they go through hard time keeping their business running. As Sichuan Normal University transferred its students from the Eastern Campus to other campuses, merchants in the Banbian Street lost many customers and were more or less beset by a financial crisis. In order to expand his own store and publicize the Banbian Street, Amamoto made promotional videos of various themes with his phone in his spare time. Online promotion is necessary, too. His promotional activity where people can get free gifts by posting pictures of the Banbian Street on WeChat was in full swing. Amamoto clearly has a good understanding of the Chinese saying: "It's really good when everybody feels good."
Amamoto goes back to Japan once every two months to visit his parents and "replenish his stock" - he buys some derivative products of Japanese celebrities, anime and comics as well as specialties from his hometown and brings them to Chengdu. He even rented a store just beside his okonomiyaki place to sells those products. Amamoto said that he has always been very grateful to Chengdu people for their kindness.
Before we left, Amamoto treated us the delicious Taiyaki with dried meat floss, which is the food Japanese people eat during celebrations. What I can tell you is that the chef's good mood is in his food.
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