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Japan Chronicles, Day Two

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May 16, 2011

By: Chris Crutchfield, American Commodity Company

After losing a day traveling and crossing the International Date Line, I've finished up my first full day in Japan -- Sunday. It was one of those rare, perfect days in Tokyo. After a cleansing rain last night, I awoke to a bright, sunny, smog-free morning. From my hotel room at the ANA Intercontinental, I can see all the way to snow capped Mt. Fuji – some 100 km in the distance. This is a very rare occurrence.

I took advantage of the great weather to do a little exploring and sight seeing on a pretty dead business day. A long time friend of mine no longer in the rice business met me at the Imperial Palace for a long run this morning after breakfast. We made two laps (5 km each), starting at the Sakuradamon Gate. The gate's significance is that it was the spot Japanese Chief Minister Naosuke was assassinated by a group of Samurai in 1860. I wasn't smiling so much after we finished the two laps!

After the run my friend and I talked a little bit about the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. He said the worst part here in Tokyo was the several weeks following when power was not reliable and thus everything from distribution to transportation was disrupted. For a city that prides itself on efficiency, this must have been pretty unusual for everyone. He doesn't have family in the affected area, but has friends who do. I'm sure this is the same for most Japanese -- it would be difficult not to have at least a third party tie to the area.


People in the hotel here tell me that for about a month after the quake and tsunami there were basically no travelers staying here. However, now it's picked back up, and this is certainly evidenced by the number of people milling around the lobby, bars, and restaurants. A common response when I ask how things are going to people I've gotten to know in the hotel and nearby establishments is something like, "Well, it's getting better we didn't have many aftershocks this week." I really didn't know they were still having them large enough to feel -- but I'm here for a week so I guess there's a chance I could feel one.

This afternoon, Bill Farmer from the USA Rice Federation and I met to discuss the HoFex food show in Hong Kong where he exhibited last week, and to plan for tomorrow's meeting and dinner with our new advisory board here in Japan. It seems there was keen interest in a lot of California specialty rices at the Food Show. Bill handed out contacts for all the California suppliers, so I'm hopeful that turns into additional business for our industry. The advisory board is a program we have tried in Canada, Turkey, and other markets with good success. We have leading importers, wholesalers, retailers, foodservice reps, and chefs on a panel to discuss how we can facilitate better use and promotion of US rice in the country. In Japan's case, all the rice is from California. I'm optimistic, and the first meeting is tomorrow.

Chris Crutchfield
President and CEO -- American Commodity Company

Chris Crutchfield is very proud to represent the third generation of his family to be involved in the rice industry. Currently Chris is involved in all aspects of California rice from production all the way to the grocery store shelf.

Shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri in 1996, Chris moved back to California and joined with his father Paul Crutchfield in the formation of a rough rice pool for direct marketing to Turkey. Chris was responsible for the day-to-day management of the pool. That partnership developed into the formation of American Commodity Company (ACC) in 2000, and Chris assumed all direct management responsibilities for ACC.

Prior to establishing himself in the California rice industry, Chris worked in the press offices of Governor Pete Wilson as his Assistant Press Secretary. He also briefly taught secondary education in the California public school system.

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