The Kagoshima area is located in the country area of Kyushu, past Kumamoto. The area is known for its specialization in tea. One of those is the Chiran Tea and the region is currently trying to promote this product to rest of the world outside of Japan. As such, Mizu Trans Corporation has been helping them figure out what to do to promote the product. To get a better idea of what was going on, the president, vice president, and I headed down to the Kagoshima area. Before arriving in Kagoshima, we stopped at the Tateyama Tea Shop located in the Hitoyoshi Prefecture in Kumamoto. This shop had worked before with Mizu Trans Corporation to make a website for foreigners to learn about the shop. The outside of the shop looked very traditional like, something a foreigner would expect to see if they came to Japan. Upon entering in the shop, one could see various interesting artifacts inside the tea house, including paintings illustrating the process done to make tea. These paintings were drawn by the great grandfather of the current shop owner over 140 years ago and are still in perfect condition. In the back, through see through glass, is a beautiful Japanese style garden with lush greenery and Tateyama Tea Shop has done many types of events and activities to show off to the rest of the world the beauty of Japanese Tea Making. The wife of the owner, who greeted us, was very kind and welcoming. She then talked about the various activities and events that they had held for foreigners and the result of these events, which was extremely successful. Around the rest of the shop were also products being sold with signs in both Japanese and English.
After leaving the tea shop, we headed down the rest of the way to Kagoshima, which we arrived at about two hours later. The first thing we did was go to the Chiran Tea Office, where there was a meeting held with the committee. Unfortunately, I did not bring my business cards with me. During the meeting, various factors were brought up such as who was in charge of what along with giving advice on what to do. Throughout the meeting, I had a hard time understanding what they were saying since the dialect is different and they spoke too fast for me to keep up. After the meeting was over, we went over to an area called the Samurai District. It was an area with both traditional style houses that visitors could take a look at along with private housing that you were not allowed to enter. The scenery was very beautiful with lots of lush greenery with also a kind of historical feel to it as well. This concluded the first day in Kagoshima.
On the second day, the president, vice president, and I went to the shops where the Chiran Tea was being sold. There, we looked at various products being sold and also took a look at how they were presented. During this time, I was asked to give my opinion since I am a foreigner and as such,know the mindset of one as well. This included factors such as packaging for the products and the displaying of product. After this, we went to go to lunch. Along the way, we stopped by Tomiya Inn, an inn noted for being where the Kamikaze pilots of WW2 would have their last drink before their missions and paid our respects. This is something I felt to be very touching due to my family on my grandmother’s side having members who were forced to become Kamikaze pilots as well. Afterwards, we stopped by a tea shop called Haru Ichiban, a tea shop selling and promoting chiran tea. The owner’s wife, who was running the store, was really nice and there, I learned about the mascot, the Ochamurai! After spending some time there, we drove up to an isolated area overlooking some rice fields. There, the vice president had me practice with a drone that we brought to take pictures. At first it was a little confusing due to me not knowing what exactly how to use it, but it came to be much easier afterward with a little bit of practice. Unfortunately, the battery wasn’t locked in correctly and as such, the battery fell out, which caused the drone to lose power and fall out of the sky. Both the vice president and I went into the fields to go look for the drone and we luckily found it, but the battery broke and was unusable for the time being.
On the third and final day, the vice president and I went back to the shops and took pictures of the various items. After which,we were taken through the production method of how they make the Chiran Tea. They first take the gathered leaves and dump them into a bin, where they are sent downward. From there, they are rolled onto this conveyor belt machine where the tea leaves are then turned into tea. From the machine, you can smell the heavy aroma coming from the tea leaves. Afterwards, we were taken to where they pick the tea leaves. Getting there was rather bumpy in that there was no paved road. It gave off a real outdoor type of vibe going out there. After a bit of a drive, we reached the fields where employees were beginning to collect tea leaves. The weather was a bit cloudy with a lot of mist which, along with the surrounding forest, gave off a real feeling of nature. The Vice President and I then watched as the employees went to work collecting the leaves. They have a type of machine, kind of like a construction dozer, which takes the leaves and collects in a basket, located in the back of the machine. From there, they load the leaves into a truck and take it back to the plant where they dump the leaves and repeats the process talked about in the beginning. After which, the vice president and I thanked them for all they had shown us and left Kagoshima, therefore concluding my time in Kagoshima.
I found Kagoshima to be very interesting in that it was a very country like area with a specialty in tea and people who used a different type of dialect that in many ways, even if you were fluent in Japanese, you wouldn’t understand. That was a first for me, as I had mainly been in areas where Tokyo dialect is dominant(also the dialect I learned). I also got to see the beautiful scenery of the countryside, a good change from just the city.Overall, the experience was one that helped me learn more about the difference in dialects across Japan along with how the mindset can vary business wise as well while also learning more about tea. Overall, it was a great experience that I will never forget about.