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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Momofuku Ando, Requiescat in pace.

We once thought of the Japanese as bloodthirsty barbarians. Indeed, many of them were.

They were also seen as mentally inferior.

But when her people were forced to be responsible politically and economically, a nation greater than any warlord or political thug could ever have imagined emerged from the rubble created by our bombs.

Ando-san, while extraordinary, was also typical.

The life of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles who passed away Friday at 96, followed a parallel path toward success with Japan in the years after World War II.

Ando, who founded the precursor to Nissin Food Products Co. in 1958, was born in 1910 in Japan-occupied Taiwan. Blessed with a knack for business, he made his first fortune running a clothing company in Osaka and also operated a trading business in the aftermath of the war.

But his arrest by the General Headquarters of the Allied occupation forces on suspicion of tax evasion in the postwar years and other misfortunes left him penniless. He was forced to start over.

In 1957, Ando began developing an instant noodle in a kitchen he built in his backyard. He said that scenes of impoverished Japanese thronging ramen stalls in the postwar years was deeply etched in his memory.

He turned to the food business, recalling later his belief the world would find peace if everyone had enough to eat.

About a year later, he introduced Chicken Ramen, the chicken-flavored dried noodle that is ready to serve in minutes after being immersed in a bowl of hot water. He was 48--a late bloomer.

"I had to wait until then to come up with the idea of Chicken Ramen," he said.

It was the year that saw the debut of the 10,000 yen bill, baseball slugger Shigeo Nagashima, Tokyo Tower and when then Crown Prince Akihito became engaged to Michiko Shoda, now empress.

Chicken Ramen was an instant hit among the ranks of workers who downed the noodles at their desks, students studying into the night for entrance exams, husbands forced by job transfers to live away from their families and children whose parents both worked outside the home.

In 1971, he introduced the styrofoam-packed Cup Noodle, now sold globally and even easier to prepare. Youths everywhere were soon to be seen gobbling Cup Noodles.

Ando had his shares of failures. An instant rice he introduced proved disastrous. With a mountain of returns, he yanked the rice off the market, but the misstep cost 3 billion yen, another hard lesson.

Ando's crowning glory came in 2005, when Nissin created Space Ram, a vacuum-packed instant noodle created for astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who consumed it aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. (Thanks to Asahi.com for this obituary.)

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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