In recent years, public interest in environmental issues has been growing. According to a survey on the SDGs conducted by INTAGE Inc., a marketing search firm, approximately 53% of SDG-aware respondents said they “want to support companies that are working on the SDGs” and approximately 45% said they “want to purchase or use SDG-related products and services”. This indicates that consideration of the SDGs is beginning to be recognized as an important factor in consumer selection when making purchases.
On the other hand, there are probably many people who are aware of these current conditions but are unsure of how to actually promote them.

In this context, on June 15, 2022, Nikko Company, a ceramics manufacturer that operates “table source,” a sustainable media for hotels and restaurants, will hold an event titled “Coexisting with Local Communities: What is Sustainability in Restaurants? What is Sustainability in Restaurants? 〜A Case Study of Wajima, Ishikawa,” a seminar was held to support hotels and restaurants in their efforts toward SDGs and sustainability.

This seminar was held at Nikko’s Hakusan headquarters in Hakusan, Japan, in parallel with on-site and online delivery. In addition to basic knowledge of “SDGs and sustainability” related to food, two guest speakers from restaurants that are actually implementing the initiatives were invited to discuss the sustainable future of restaurants.


Takeshi Shimotaya “Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association” Representative Director (Planning and Cooperation)

Sustainavision Ltd. was established in the UK in 2010 to serve as a bridge for CSR/sustainability between Japan and Europe. Based in London, he provides sustainability training and research to Japanese companies. In 2018, he established the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association in Japan in partnership with the UK Sustainable Restaurant Association. They are working to improve the sustainability of restaurants and eateries, as well as to change the food system itself and shift it to a better state.

Mr. Toshiaki Tominari, Representative of Japanese Restaurant “Tominari” (Wajima, Ishikawa)

He spent his childhood gathering wild vegetables in the mountains, fishing in the sea and rivers, and enjoying cooking with his father. After graduating from a vocational school in Osaka to become a chef, he trained at a ryotei restaurant in Osaka and a hotel in Kyoto, and took over his father’s catering restaurant in 2008. 2013, he changed the restaurant’s name to “Japanese Cuisine Tominari”. 2018, he launched the “Machino River Restoration Project” and is actively involved in environmental conservation and local revitalization efforts. He was awarded one star and green star in the “Michelin Guide Hokuriku 2021”.

Hideaki Omote General Manager, Sustainable Design Office, Innovation Design Ci.,Ltd..

Under the vision of “envisioning the future for people and the earth,” the restaurant addresses various environmental, procurement, and social issues in its food business, “solving social problems through food”. And was the first restaurant in Japan to be awarded three stars by the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association. In the “haishop” business, “solving social issues through souvenirs”, we are tackling social issues through co-creation with various partners.

Nikko Company (Sponsor)

A ceramics manufacturer established in 1908. In order to provide the highest quality and integrity, the company conducts integrated production from raw material processing to the final process at its own factory in Ishikawa Prefecture, and is the only ceramics manufacturer in Japan with a large production volume. The company is examining various approaches, including the launch of the “NIKKO Circular Lab”, a cross-organizational research and development project, and its membership in the “Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association”. In addition to ceramics, Nikko currently develops and manufactures a wide range of products, including septic tanks, high-end system baths, and other residential environmental equipment, as well as functional ceramic products.

Supporting the Realization of Sustainable Food Service

The first speaker was Takeshi Shimotaya, President of the “Sustainable Restaurant Association of Japan (SRA-J)”, which will help plan this event.

The Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association is the Japanese branch of an organization established in the UK in 2010 with the aim of realizing a sustainable food cycle. It contributes to the creation of a sustainable food system by supporting the realization of a sustainable food system and measuring the sustainability of “food” with a comprehensive index.
The Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association uses an evaluation index based on three guiding principles: procurement, society, and environment. This evaluation indicator is also used as an evaluation indicator for “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” known as the Academy Awards for food, and is highly recognized worldwide.

Mr. Shimotaya: “Why should restaurants promote sustainability? It is because they may be unknowingly complicit in exacerbating various environmental issues such as forced labor, child labor, and deforestation, not only within their restaurants, but also through their actions and procurement in the supply chain. On the other hand, by changing our behavior and procurement, we can contribute to solving these socio-environmental challenges.”

Three Guiding Principles for “Procurement, Society, and the Environment”

In “procurement” of the three guidelines, the active use of “Better Meat,” which is meat raised in consideration of animal welfare and livestock health, and ” Sustainable Seafood,” which is fish and shellfish produced in consideration of preserving marine resources and ecosystems, will also contribute to environmental conservation.

In the “society” part, it is also important to create a working environment where everyone who works there can work happily.
In terms of “environment,” these include reducing food loss, using plastic-free takeout containers, and eliminating the waste of energy resources such as water, gas, and electricity.

We want to restore the bounty of Noto’s satoyama, sea, and rivers that used to be abundant.

The second speaker was Toshiaki Tominari, owner-chef of “Japanese Cuisine Tominari”, a restaurant in a house in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture. The restaurant is a renowned restaurant that received one star and a green star in the “Michelin Guide Hokuriku 2021” released last year. In addition to running the restaurant, Tominari is also the executive director of the Machino River Fisheries Cooperative Association and a representative of the Machino River Restoration Project.

Wajima City is located in a peaceful area surrounded by rice paddies, about a two-hour drive from Kanazawa. Mr. Tominari was born in Wajima City and spent his childhood playing in the rich nature of the satoyama and beautiful rivers, growing up with the blessings of nature.

Mr.Tominari: “When I was a child, I enjoyed going to the mountains to gather wild vegetables with my father, who was a chef, and fishing and cooking in the rivers and the sea. However, after graduating from high school, I went to a culinary school in Osaka and later returned to my hometown after completing my training at hotels in Osaka and Kyoto, and the environment had changed terribly. Fireflies and loaches that used to abound in the Machino River in front of my house had disappeared, the satoyama had begun to fall into disrepair due to lack of management, and wild vegetables and mushrooms could no longer be gathered. River fish could no longer be caught, and river fishermen were no longer to be seen.”

In addition to the deterioration of the natural environment, what was even more serious was the declining population due to depopulation and aging. The declining population was causing sales to drop year by year, and the owner was concerned about whether he would be able to continue to operate his store in Wajima.

Lamprey eel, a clue to local revitalization and environmental conservation

In his search for ways to revitalize the community and preserve the satoyama and satoumi, he remembered the lamprey eels.

Mr. Tominari :”Lamprey eel is not a fish but a member of the cyclostomata. It tastes like something between an eel and chicken liver. I wanted to use lamprey eels in my restaurant, so I went to the river fisherman, but he refused me, saying that he could only catch about 10 lamprey eels a year now and that he sends them all to university professors for research.”

Mr. Tominari: “In the midst of all this, a river fisherman showed me a newspaper article that said, ‘A professor at Ishikawa Prefectural University has succeeded in artificially inseminating lamprey eels. I thought, ‘This is it!’ I thought I saw a clue to local revitalization and environmental preservation. I immediately contacted the professor to get his contact information and ask for his cooperation. I also joined the fishermen’s union and started my current efforts.”

Tominari’s idea of creating a system to protect

Mr. Tominari joined forces with universities and fishermen’s associations to launch an environmental conservation initiative. One of the events that marked a turning point for him was the “International Symposium on World Agricultural Heritage”. Participation in this event led him to realize the importance of creating a system to protect the environment, and he began to think about it.

The Machino River Fisheries Cooperative Association’s efforts include environmental education for children through discharge experiences, river play experiences, and cleanup activities. The Machino River Restoration Project has also succeeded in creating a mechanism to raise funds for conservation activities by selling project stickers to sponsoring companies for 25 yen each. A total of 7,232 project stickers have been sold, and donations are now being received. They are also working on artificial propagation of lamprey eels with the funds raised.

In addition, “Japanese Cuisine Tominari” offers dishes centered on ingredients from the river with the hope of “energizing the people and satoyama of Noto through cuisine”. The restaurant uses natural ingredients that he personally gathers in the mountains and rivers, as well as rice and vegetables that he grows himself without pesticides or fertilizers.

Visualize the degree to which your store promotes sustainability

The third speaker was Hideaki Omote, General Manager of the Sustainable Design Office at Innovation Design co.,Ltd., which aims to solve social issues through its food, beverage, retail, and consulting businesses under the vision of “envisioning the future for ‘people’ and ‘planet'”.
Three of the company’s restaurants “KITCHEN MANE” “haishop cafe” and “KIGI”, have been awarded Japan’s first three stars by the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association’s “Food Made Good” restaurant rating program for sustainable food systems.

The company’s promotion of sustainable restaurant development was triggered by the Food Made Good50 self-assessment tool provided by the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association.

FOOD MADE GOOD Japan Awards 2022 Grand Prize winner,

Mr. Omote: “This self-assessment tool is a self-assessment checklist that allows you to visualize the degree of sustainability promotion in your restaurant by answering 50 questions. After answering the questions, you will receive a report with advice on how to make improvements in the three areas of ‘procurement, society, and the environment’. By using this tool, we now have a clear idea of what we need to do in the future.”

Work with all staff members to understand social issues

In addition, Innovation Design provides each staff member with an opportunity to learn from various themes related to environmental issues. Each staff member is asked to research specific examples, the current situation, and improvement initiatives already in practice around the world, and to present their learnings to all employees, regardless of department or position. In this way, they can turn one person’s learning into the learning of the entire company.

Mr. Omote: “At our company, all of our employees have the title of sustainable designer. Sustainable designers are responsible for communicating the background and stories of social issues to as many people as possible. When more people become aware of the issues, they will feel empathy and become aware of the issues, which will lead to changes in their own choices and actions. This will lead to changes in society and the future. We value dialogue because there is more than one way to solve various social issues. I believe it is important to speak in one’s own words, even if one isn’t very good at it.”

In addition, the company also holds film festivals where employees watch films on social issues and exchange their impressions with each other, providing opportunities for dialogue among employees, and other activities.

At the same time, the company places importance not only on internal dialogue, but also on “dialogue” with producers and customers. Through dialogue with customers, the company communicates the thoughts and voices of producers and the roots of food ingredients, which it has learned by actually visiting the producers.

Ceramic Manufacturer Aims for Circular Economy

The fourth speaker was Takeshi Ito, Sales Manager of the Ceramics Division of Nikko Corporation, the operator of this web media. Nikko Company is a manufacturer that has been making ceramics and porcelain for over 100 years since its establishment in 1908. And its production is fully integrated, from the preparation of raw materials to the final process, at its factory in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Mr. Ito: “In recent years, natural resources such as fine stones and clay, which are essential for making beautiful ceramics, have been depleted year by year due to excessive mining, and procurement prices have already begun to rise for some raw materials. Furthermore, the Japanese ceramics business as a whole is in a declining trend, and the traditional linear economy model of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal has its limits. To face these challenges, the company launched the “NIKKO Circular Lab” in April 2021 with the aim of realizing a more sustainable and recycling-oriented business throughout the entire value chain, from raw material procurement to product design, distribution, product use, and recovery.”

Designing a circulating future, 100 years from now

Under the theme of “Designing a Circular Future 100 Years from Now,” the NIKKO Circular Lab is promoting initiatives in line with the principles of the circular economy throughout the entire value chain of the ceramics business, from the procurement of raw materials to manufacturing, distribution, use, and collection of ceramics. We are promoting initiatives in line with the principles of the circular economy. We would like to introduce some of our specific initiatives.

Mr. Ito: “sarasub is a tableware subscription service specializing in tableware. The advantage of this service is that customers can use Nikko’s high-quality tableware while keeping initial costs low by renting tableware at a fixed monthly rate instead of purchasing it. By upgrading the plates closest to the customers who dine at your restaurant, you can increase customer satisfaction. In addition, by returning dishes that had to be disposed of due to chips or cracks to Nikko, costs associated with industrial waste can be reduced.
After the contract expires, the dishes are collected and reused, repaired, and refurbished as much as possible, and even dishes that are no longer usable are recycled in an attempt to recycle the dishes.”

Mr. Ito: “In addition, Nikko has established a technology to recycle out-of-spec products produced in the production process as fertilizer, since tricalcium phosphate, the main ingredient of bone china material, is effective as a fertilizer. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries certified it as a fertilizer on February 10, 2022, and in March of the same year it was announced as ” BONEARTH“.
Currently, phosphorus used in Japan is almost exclusively imported from overseas (mainly China), and the price of fertilizer has risen significantly due to soaring import prices. By utilizing tableware that previously had to be disposed of as industrial waste due to chips and cracks as phosphate fertilizer and recycling it domestically, we are also helping to ensure sustainable food production.”

Nikko also produces the “#Single use Planet” ceramic mug, a tribute to the disposable plastic coffee cups that have long been a familiar part of the Japanese business scene. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these mugs is donated to a non-profit organization that addresses the issue of ocean plastic. Various efforts are still underway to realize the circular economy.

Editor’s Note

Our society is now facing a variety of environmental challenges. Sustainability considerations for hotels and restaurants are becoming an imperative when thinking about the future of food.

On the other hand, the current response to sustainability in the food system is still insufficient. If all people involved in the food industry focus on and take action on initiatives that consider the natural environment, it will lead to the establishment of a sustainable food system and the realization of a sustainable and better world.

Even if the efforts seem trivial at first glance, the small accumulation of each and every one of us can create a ripple effect of sustainability. Nikko plans to hold more events and seminars on food sustainability in the future. Participating in such events may be the first step in this effort.

[Reference Site] Official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan [What are the SDGs?]
[Reference Site]Three Innovation Design-operated restaurants received Japan’s first three stars in the restaurant sustainability ratings.

table source 編集部
table source 編集部
table source 編集部では、サステナビリティやサーキュラーエコノミー(循環経済)に取り組みたいレストランやホテル、食にまつわるお仕事をされている皆様に向けて、国内外の最新ニュース、コラム、インタビュー取材記事などを発信しています。