Noritake brings upscale tableware to Chinese

Kyodo

Major ceramics producer Noritake Co. is stepping up its sales pitch for Western tableware in China’s nascent market, where dishes designed for Chinese cuisine remain prevalent.

It remains to be seen how successful the Japanese-made tableware will be in China, the birthplace of ceramics. Much is at stake for Noritake, which is little known in China although it had already become a household name in the United States and Canada before World War II.

As business slows in Japan, the company’s fortunes may hinge on how it fares in the Chinese market.

In late October, Noritake and its group firm, Okura Art China Inc., showcased their tableware and ceramic urns at Top Marques Shanghai, an exhibition targeting wealthy Chinese consumers. The event drew some 1,500 visitors, including corporate managers.

Alongside luxury yachts, sports cars and vacation homes on display, the Japanese firm exhibited individual items costing more than ¥1 million — including a 45-cm, ¥1.2 million dish sporting an image of a dragon — an auspicious symbol favored by many Chinese.

“Each piece of Noritake ware is made with such meticulous care,” said one Chinese visitor in his 40s. “Each one of the company’s products is a quality item and looks classy.”

A Noritake official in charge of the exhibition expressed confidence that the company’s tableware was well-received, saying, “We got a lot of inquiries about our upscale product lineup that included a tea service with an image of a golden Chinese phoenix and a large dish depicting lilies in silver.”

The products all feature Japan’s cutting-edge ceramics technology, the official said.

Noritake believes it still needs to tackle a major cultural barrier amid Chinese consumers’ overwhelming preference for their domestic tableware.

In an effort to overcome that challenge, the company opened its first Chinese showroom at a prime location in Shanghai’s financial district last April.

“We intend to promote the appeal of Japanese-made tableware, now that the Chinese are embracing new varieties of food culture as their living standards have risen,” the Noritake official said.