A Day at the Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory
For almost one hundred years, the Kewpie Corporation has made and distributed mayonnaise all over Japan and now the world. Inside the factory they offer a free tour for visitors to see how the mayo is made and what is inside it that has made Kewpie mayonnaise so popular and so distinctly Japanese.
The tour begins in the brightly lit lobby with furniture shaped like different vegetables. The guides explain the history of mayonnaise beginning in France and then moving its way to Japan. Kyuichiro Nakashima first brought mayonnaise to Japan in 1915. To add more taste to their product, the Kewpie Corporation added soy sauce, rice vinegar, rapeseed, and soybeans. It took time though for Japanese to accept this strange new sauce. When first brought to stores it was often mistaken for hair wax. But soon people were using it on all their foods like okonomiyaki and yakisoba.
To appeal to young people, the Kewpie character was created. It took inspiration from children’s dolls that were popular at the time. Today that cute character is synonymous with Kewpie mayonnaise and is printed on every bottle.
Next on the tour they explain that mayonnaise is different in every country. In Europe and America it is white with a salty taste and mostly used to put on sandwiches. In Thailand it is a spicy sauce with wasabi in it. In China it is sweet and eaten with fruit. The Japanese though have many uses for this tasty, thick, white sauce and their mayo is more vinegary than its western counterpart. After the different mayonnaise was presented, they pointed out the newest mayonnaises that are coming out. Some with fewer calories, vegan mayonnaise, and less vinegar mayonnaise.
Within the tour, there was an animated video on what mayo is made from. Like most Japanese tour videos this one featured lots of colorful animation, high-pitched voices to teach you how it’s done, and all ingredients to mayo (vinegar, salt, egg yolks, and soy sauce) were made into a character. Watching the video pointed out the different way Japanese mayo is and how the levels of vinegar and salt help keep it well preserved.
After seeing what’s inside the mayonnaise, you get to see the fascinating way it gets made through the factory. You do not see the actual factory process the mayo, but instead get a walking video tour of it, which is faster and more entertaining for large groups. It starts with walking through an air blower that the staff uses everyday to remove dust and other particles. Then the guides lead you to a room where they show a video about the eggs being cracked then have their yolks and whites separated by a machine. The machine can split 600 eggs in one minute. Then they show what they use the remaining egg whites for. Some of these uses are cosmetics, chalk, and food.
The end of the tour is the tastiest part. The guides take you to a cafeteria and show you the many recipes possible with mayonnaise such as mayonnaise baked shrimp and pancakes with mayo inside. Then you make a salad dressing out of mayo and marmalade along with your choice of seasoning. You can make your own delicious mayo dressing and bring the recipe home.
The Kewpie Corporation makes great mayonnaise. It may be a new kind of mayonnaise for westerners, but the taste is memorable for anyone visiting Japan. The tour is free. You only have to make a reservation by phone or online. Their tour is at their company building in Sengawa, Tokyo. If you love mayonnaise, then Kewpie will not disappoint.
Website (in Japanese) : http://www.kewpie.co.jp/mayoterrace/