A new challenge that began in a fishing town surrounded by rich natural surroundings
Hiketa is a small harbor town in the city of Higashikagawa, in Japan’s Setouchi region. The town’s initial rise to prosperity began with the aquafarming of the hamachi, or Japanese amberjack. The inland part of the town has an idyllic landscape of rice paddies, and its residents are gentle and peaceful. CAVIC’s President and CEO Naoki Itasaka was born and raised in this town.
“Nao-chan! I hear you’re doing something new here.”
Whenever Itasaka stepped outside for a brief walk, familiar-faced ladies who he’d known since he was a child would come over to speak to him. Everyone has been very supportive. For Itasaka, the townscape of Hiketa has always been the landscape that was closest to his heart.
Some thirty years after his graduation, Itasaka heard that his former junior high school was to be closed. “We made up our minds to begin a business to preserve the school and find some way of utilizing it. But as far as farming sturgeon fish was concerned, we were complete amateurs.”
“I could count on one hand the number of times I’d even eaten caviar. But this town was known as the first fishing town in the world to succeed in the aquafarming of Japanese amberjack, and the people working around the town were like older brothers to me. While there are differences between seawater and freshwater, the essence of aquafarming is the same, and they taught us all of that. They taught us all of their valuable knowhow, without any stint whatsoever.”
Itasaka’s childhood landscape, the fishing town, the warmth and kindness of the local people… All of the dots began to join together, and the new business of rearing sturgeon and producing caviar began.
The school gymnasium—with its cut out ceiling and floor—houses a total of nine aquaculture tanks. “We dug out six wells to draw groundwater, and converted the school’s former science lab into a research and development center. We hold meetings in the old library, and process our caviar in the former home economics room. It may seem like a bizarre idea, but everything makes perfect sense. We were particular about the fact that we wanted to make use of the school’s original facilities in as close to their original form as possible.”
However, caviar is a raw food product. It is so sensitive that its taste is said to change in the space of two seconds between scooping it up with a metal spoon and carrying it to one’s mouth. “In order to preserve the delicate flavor of the caviar, the thing that we placed most importance on was hygiene. We therefore decided to use the school’s old home economics room as our processing room, and obtained HACPP certifications for both the USA and Europe. We paid particular attention to various fine details, such as in developing our own feed to rear our sturgeon, and adjusting their amount of movement by adjusting the flow of water in the tanks.”
“Much of the imported caviar currently circulated in the market is heat treated after harvesting, and canned in a state of high salt concentration to prevent deterioration. Although CAVIC’s caviar is fresh (raw) caviar, we pride ourselves on its exquisite quality since it uses no additives and a low salt concentration of below 3%; achieved through cutting-edge technology, hard work and craftsmanship.”
“The smooth, melt-in-the-mouth flavor of our caviar overturns existing stereotypical images of caviar being salty and hard. We have received many inquiries from famous restaurants and hotels, and our caviar has been highly appraised by many customers.”
“We have great confidence in our caviar, and moving forward we hope to deliver the appeal and delicious taste of real fresh caviar to as many customers as possible. We will also ensure that we do not forget the initial sentiments behind the start of our business, of wanting to contribute to the local community, and continue to produce delicious caviar and communicate the appeal of Japanese-produced caviar from Hiketa to the rest of the world.”