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In the three years since Kai Ishiguro took the helm of the satellite shop Kochi-ya in Kichijoji, western Tokyo, the 29-year-old representative has managed to turn its sluggish business around.

The shop is expected to achieve an 80 million yen annual turnover in the current business year ending March 31, by far the best among all shops representing outlying prefectures.

Unlike satellite shops of other prefectures, “our goods are all authentic products from Kochi Prefecture,” Ishiguro said, adding that representatives of other satellite shops often visit him for advise. “Ninety percent of all our 800 items are labeled with the producer’s name.”

Many customers stop in to purchase products that can only be found in Kochi-ya.

While one woman in her 50s came in to look for the delicious powdered green tea that she can’t do without, another, Ritsuko Tokita, who lives nearby, came to buy “tosajiro” free-range chicken eggs that she feels are safe enough to eat raw.

“In an era when we can’t be quite sure of what we are eating, there is great value in food that clearly states where and how it was made,” she said.

Other hard-to-find food she purchases at Kochi-ya includes newly harvested green riverweeds from Kochi’s Shimanto River, known as one of the cleanest in Japan, and salted dried bamboo shoots.

Ishiguro also takes pride in products using “kaiyo-shinso sui,” deep-sea water that is touted as originating in the North Pole and flowing down to Kochi’s Muroto Peninsula. Items such as tofu, miso and pickles are made using this water. “Kinugoshi” (silk soft) tofu, in particular, really feels like silk when made with this water, he boasted.

“Yuzu,” a citrus fruit and another noted product of Kochi, has proved popular overseas, including in Canada, he said.

Having recently been featured in some 20 magazines and newspapers as well as on TV, the shop is seeing more than 300 people frequent it daily. The shop is at its busiest around 3 p.m., when fresh vegetables harvested in Kochi the day before are delivered.

Most of the vegetables are organically grown or are low in pesticides.

The difficult part about his business, Ishiguro said, is the locality and character of Kichijoji.

It is a trendy area where consumers are used to unique and high-quality products, but the residents are also known for their thriftiness.

Ishiguro therefore cuts all middlemen between the producers and the shop to keep prices at a minimum.

“I know that some satellite shops depend on funding from their prefectures, and are not so keen on making profits. But for me, it is a challenge to see how far we can go, amid restrictions in dealing with products from just one prefecture.”

Kochi must be content with the shop’s success; the prefecture is planning to open three more shops by the end of March: one close to Ginza, one in Jiyugaoka and another in the Yokohama area.

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