Experience, Knowledge Drive Success of Award-Winning Producer in Japan

The Nippon Olive Company earned two Gold Awards at the 2022 NYIOOC, attributing the success to seven decades of experience and the Mediterranean climate.

Nippon Olive Company
Jun. 22, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Nippon Olive Company

Recent News

Two extra vir­gin olive oils from a region of Japan known for its unique cli­mate have won Gold Awards at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The groves of Nippon Olive Company sit above the Seto Inland Sea, in south­ern Japan, which boasts a Mediterranean cli­mate. However, offi­cials at the com­pany also attrib­uted its suc­cess in the com­pe­ti­tion to a decades-long his­tory of olive grow­ing and ded­i­cated research.

I think most Japanese house­holds still do not rec­og­nize high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil… but I feel that peo­ple are increas­ingly enjoy­ing olive oils’ unique fla­vors when cook­ing.- Yasuhiro Yoshida, pro­duc­tion direc­tor, Nippon Olive Company

Locals describe our region as the Aegean Sea, a trib­ute to a cli­mate which closely resem­bles the Mediterranean cli­mate,” Yasuhiro Yoshida, the company’s pro­duc­tion direc­tor, told Olive Oil Times. So much so that our city, Ushimado, is an offi­cial sis­ter-city with Mitilíni in Greece.”

The for­mally trained olive oil taster and agron­o­mist is the dri­ving force behind the suc­cess of the company’s Ushimado and Ushimado Superior brands.

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Yoshida’s work fol­lows the path set by the com­pany founder, Waichiro Hattori, who began grow­ing olives in the area in 1942 and launched its first olive prod­uct in 1949.

Great-grand­fa­ther of the cur­rent Nippon Olive pres­i­dent, Hattori wanted to cre­ate a prod­uct that could heal and feed peo­ple. Over time, the com­pany expanded its olive groves over about 10 hectares, where it man­ages more than 2,000 trees.

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After nearly five decades of expe­ri­ence grow­ing Mediterranean olive vari­eties in Japan, the com­pany expanded its pro­duc­tion to Spain in 1992.

In Tortosa, Nippon Olive Company man­ages more than 3,000 trees on 45 hectares. This expanded pro­duc­tion helps the com­pany reach the vol­umes needed to keep pace with the grow­ing demand of Japanese con­sumers for its high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils.

The need to increase yields does not come as a sur­prise. According to the lat­est data from the International Olive Council (IOC), Japan is cur­rently the fourth largest importer of olive oils glob­ally, behind the United States, the European Union and Brazil.

The company’s expan­sion into Spanish olive pro­duc­tion was also not a sur­prise, with 93 per­cent of Japanese olive oil imports com­ing from the coun­try. Still, Ushimado Garden, the core of Hattori’s vision for the land­scape, remains the focus of the com­pa­ny’s oper­a­tions.

Yoshida empha­sized Nippon Olive’s strong rela­tion­ship with Ushimado’s unique lands. The loca­tion of the city and its cul­ture, greatly influ­enced by the Seto Inland Sea and the related trade oppor­tu­ni­ties, made Ushimado a sig­nif­i­cant port until the end of the Edo era in the 19th cen­tury.

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Photo: Nippon Olive

Many vis­i­tors to the area explore its unique char­ac­ter by climb­ing Ushimado Garden’s olive-tree-dot­ted hills for views of the Seto Inland Sea and its islands.

Visitors come here not only to see the trees, but also to enjoy the won­der­ful scenery of the olive groves, the blue sea and the col­or­ful fields, and to seek out the high-qual­ity olive oil,” Yoshida said.

Ushimado is now one of the major tourist attrac­tions of Okayama pre­fec­ture, host­ing 90,000 vis­i­tors annu­ally.

In homage to the land, Yoshida named the com­pa­ny’s farm after the land. Ushimado is a blend of Arbequina, Mission, Manzanillo, Lucca and Nevadillo Blanco olives. It is a sweet extra vir­gin olive oil with mild notes of bit­ter and piquant.

Meanwhile, Ushimado Superior is sourced from care­fully selected olives of Manzanillo, Lucca, Nevadillo Blanco and Mission vari­eties.

We cre­ate our Ushimado blends adapt­ing to the oppor­tu­ni­ties given us by the sea­sons,” Yoshida said. We fol­low the weather and the trees in the pur­suit of qual­ity.”

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Photo: Yasuhiro Yoshida (left) and Masayuki Kurihara

One of the keys to Nippon Olive’s sus­tained suc­cess at the NYIOOC is the daily mon­i­tor­ing of the trees, to detect poten­tial threats and keep them healthy.

Pest con­trol is essen­tial, of course,” Yoshida said. But we espe­cially focus on prun­ing cor­rectly, which enables us to keep the trees healthy and aim at the best prod­uct qual­ity.”

I would say that the basics of our work have not changed over time, but the qual­ity has improved,” he added. This is because of a bet­ter assess­ment of the har­vest times and increased care in the oil extrac­tion process, which pre­serves the unique fla­vors of our olive oils.”

While the cli­mate in the region is mostly ideal for olive grow­ing, the weather remains one of the major chal­lenges for the olive farm.

That is mostly true for the long rains that often occur before har­vest, with the rainy sea­son of Japan tra­di­tion­ally tak­ing place between June and July,” Yoshida said.

Other prob­lems might come from fierce heat often expe­ri­enced from the sec­ond part of July to the end of August, a period char­ac­ter­ized by the absence of water, which can also have an impact on our trees,” he added. When needed, drip irri­ga­tion is pro­vided.

The com­pany is antic­i­pat­ing an emerg­ing shift among Japanese con­sumers toward using extra vir­gin olive oil at home, par­tially due to more wide­spread knowl­edge about its health ben­e­fits.

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Photo: Nippon Olive Company

Today olive oils in Japan are mainly used in restau­rants for Mediterranean-type meals such as Spanish or Italian cui­sine,” Yoshida said. Still, we see that con­sump­tion seems to be grow­ing, and that hap­pens mostly with extra vir­gin olive oils.”

It seems its use is spread­ing to the ordi­nary Japanese house­holds, which are shift­ing from a health-con­scious approach to the pur­suit of good taste,” he added. IOC fig­ures show that vir­gin olive oil com­prises 77 per­cent of Japan’s olive oil imports.

I think most Japanese house­holds still do not rec­og­nize high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil as opposed to lower qual­ity olive oils, but I feel that peo­ple are increas­ingly enjoy­ing olive oils’ unique fla­vors when cook­ing,” he added.

According to Yoshida, extra vir­gin olive oil is also an ingre­di­ent that can seam­lessly be fused into tra­di­tional Japanese dishes.

High-qual­ity olive oil can be used in a wide vari­ety of dishes of Japanese cui­sine,” he con­cluded. Our employ­ees, for instance, use it on their miso soup, oni­giris, tofu and nat­tos.”



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