See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Japan's Independent Tofu Makers Are Rapidly Disappearing

Traditional tofu maker

Photo of a tofu maker's store, in which tofu is produced and sold. Image by Flickr user sawako (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Japan's Yomiuri Newspaper recently reported [ja] that the country's traditional tofu makers who produce and sell tofu in their own shops are on the verge of extinction. According to the article, in the last ten years, 5,000 tofu makers have closed down their businesses.

Tofu industry journal Toyoshimpo [ja] detailed that the number of tofu makers are decreasing year after year, and now there are fewer than 10,000 tofu sellers in Japan.

Times are getting tougher for these independent tofu providers due to a hike in the cost of soy beans. Supermarkets and grocery stores are demanding lower prices from tofu makers, and independent tofu makers that sell tofu have to compete with the price of cheap mass‐produced tofu, amid Japan's economic stagflation.

The news reverberated on Twitter, where users recalled the tofu makers in their own communities and commented on the state of the industry. 

Journalist Shoko Egawa wrote anxiously in response to the news report:

The report says “The price competition of tofu is increasing, and tofu makers are having a difficult time.If tofu makers don't review the price or start selling their tofu to supermarkets, they will disappear.” Now that is a problem! ―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Twitter user Kiwi Shiroyama expressed feelings of powerlessness, and commented in grief that despite her personal effort to support the community tofu maker by intentionally avoiding mega-stores that sell tofu, it didn't make a difference:

I have always made the effort to visit local stores instead of going to a big supermarket, yet my favorite tofu seller in the community closed up shop. ―TTofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Tofu seller

Photo of a tofu store taken by Flickr user vintagecat (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hiroko Inagaki recommended that people take a hard look at the consequences of cheap tofu prices: 

It is certainly strange to have tofu stuck at low price while other products's prices are rising. Making the price unreasonably low could lead to endanger food safety. It's always delightful to see things at lower prices, but we have to be able to look deeper at the price tag and see what lies behind.―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Home made tofu store

Customers visiting a tofu maker in Tsukishima, Tokyo, to purchase tofu. Image by Flickr user urawa (CC BY 2.0)

Twitter user Don Uworry asked tofu makers to raise their prices:

Dear tofu makers, please stop competing with the prices and start making delicious, safe tofu and soy milk made of soybeans grown in Japan with higher prices. I'll have it every day. ―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Tofu lined up in glossary store

A variety of tofu is available in grocery stores, but independent family-owned tofu sellers that make and sell tofu are disappearing.
Image by flickr user shibuya246 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Atsuko Momoi wished the best for her favorite tofu maker:

I hope my favorite tofu maker stays in business forever. I'm rooting for them because their tofu is good and has soul.  ―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Chieda Aritake explained a personal connection to the dire news about tofu makers:

My family used to be tofu maker, but closed right after my grandmother died. ―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

tofu store owner

Photo of a tofu maker. Behind him are machines to make tofu. Photo taken by Flickr user iMorpheus (CC BY 2.0)

User ASTORIA_11105 advised consumers to take their fair share of the blame for situation that tough tofu makers find themselves in:

I think the public has been wrong because they have blamed the bad economy on deflation and neglected paying the proper price. Consumers need to realize that if they don't allow tofu makers to profit from what they do, it is going to come back to haunt consumers. ―Tofu makers closing down businesses, say there's no profit despite being open 365 days―

Thumbnail photo of Japanese tofu (CC-BY 2.0) taken by Flickr user www.bluewaikiki.com

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site