AFURI Shares Japanese Culture Through Ramen

  • By Sirada

Named after the sacred Mount Afuri on the eastern edge of the Tanzawa mountains in Kanagawa prefecture, renowned for its waters and good harvest. Since 2003 AFURI has been making waves across the globe for its delicious ramen with focus on the quality and purity of the water used for the broth and the finest quality ingredients. We recently caught up with company director and CEO of international operations Taichi Ishizuki, who lives in Portland, Oregon with his family to find out more about the Group’s plans for Niseko. 

Have you been to Niseko before?

Last summer I went to Niseko and had a chance to see the construction site of Setsu Niseko. It was a short trip, but I remember the food there was amazing, especially the soba, it was excellent. I believe water quality in Niseko is exceptional and will produce the perfect ramen broth. I look forward to visiting again soon and exploring the local area more.  

Can you please share with us the starting point of AFURI?

It is our dream to bring the finest Japanese ramen to the world. We believe sharing ramen is a meaningful way to achieve a continuity of culture and connection in our everyday lives. To this day, there are still many Japanese restaurants in the world serving instant noodles and without quality bowls, because they don’t have someone to share the craft of ramen with them. Founder Hiroto and I see ramen differently and we teamed up so that we could share the craft and culture of fine ramen with the world. Currently, we have 16 outlets in Japan and 12 stores internationally. We see ourselves as ambassadors and stewards of Japanese culture -  by sharing ramen, a connection can be achieved worldwide. 

We did some reading on your website and found that AFURI's philosophy is Higher (Yori Takamie), what do you mean by this?  

We are named after a mountain. The best way to describe this philosophy is to compare it to the goals of climbing a mountain. Every day we endeavour to reach higher than the day before. We have aimed our sights on sharing culture through ramen, all across the world. Little by little, bowl by bowl.

This will be the one and only AFURI shop in Hokkaido, please share with us your thoughts behind choosing to open in Niseko? 

The reason for choosing Niseko is that this town offers something that no other location in this country could offer: a soft water from Mount Yotei that is remarkably similar to the water from Mount Afuri that we use in our ramen broth. They both have unique characteristics that give the rich and special flavour to the ramen. The unique characteristics of this water coupled with the high quality of the local Hokkaido produce will create an excellent ramen broth and menu of Japanese dishes. We cherish the power of the ingredients, and with these reasons in mind, it was a very clear and easy decision to choose Niseko as a location for our restaurant.

AFURI is one of the most well-known ramen restaurants, our staff here are very excited about having AFURI in the hotel. What do you think makes AFURI so unique and successful both domestically and internationally?  

For me, it is the quality of bowls we provide to our guests. We are very particular about our ramen. What ingredients go into it, how it is prepared, and also how it is served. We are proud to say that AFURI is one of the few restaurant brands recognised both domestically and internationally. I believe together with the Setsu team, we can draw guests from both Japan and overseas to the hotel.

Your noodles are handmade in-house daily, can you please share more about the process of making ramen?

We use multiple flours mixed with spring water from Mount Yotei to make dough. We knead and roll the dough in a special way to create the texture of the noodles. 

How about your soup? Can you please share with us what makes it so special?

Our handcrafted broth is the most important component for us and it is made fresh daily; it has a natural umami (flavour) and textures that creates layers of aromas from the chicken, vegetables, seafood, seaweed and hints of yuzu. Such a complex umami (flavour) can offer a world of difference to the experience.

We believe that AFURI has been geared towards the health-conscious generation, can you please share more?  

Yes we want to make sure that we support healthy living and we believe that offering vegan and gluten free options to diners is very important. From the beginning, we choose not to use artificial ingredients like colouring agents, food preservatives, chemical umami seasoning, etc,  instead we focus on the quality of the ingredients to bring out the best flavours. Day to day we make every effort to create safe and delicious products that can be enjoyed by small children and those who are concerned about their health. 

Is the plan to have the same menus as you serve in your other outlets in Japan?

We like to ensure each location is unique and has its own personality. The menu at Setsu Niseko will be different from the other branches in Japan. We will be offering multiple homemade gyoza’s, appetisers and a ramen menu that will change seasonally using locally sourced ingredients. We foresee that the gyoza will easily become everyone’s favourite.

We look forward to enjoying AFURI's many dishes, especially buta (pork) gyoza and yuzu ramen. What is your favourite dish?

Yuzu Shio ramen is my favourite, it is the most refreshing ramen and you experience many layers of umami (flavour) in the soup.

Will you be working closely with local suppliers to source ingredients?

Of course, Hokkaido produce is of exceptional quality, all of the ingredients in AFURI will be locally sourced from the water right through to the vegetables.

What are you most excited about opening a new restaurant in Hokkaido and especially Niseko?

The fate of that bowl of ramen has connected AFURI and me to yet another part of the world, and that makes me very excited. I look forward to sharing the AFURI experience with everyone. 

More information about AFURI will be available on the website soon, please stay tuned and we look forward to delivering you a great dining experience for you, our Setsu Niseko guests. 

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