Jump-Starting Imabari Through Food and Agriculture


Yoshifumi Kihara
Store General Manager, SaiSai Kite-ya

The large store is packed with vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, rice, flowers, and other local products. SaiSai Kite-ya, run by JA-Ochi-Imabari, is one of the largest farmers’ markets in Japan. It gathers not only local people but also shoppers, tourists, and observers from in and out of Ehime. It is said to be the model of success for regional revitalization. The store space boasts the largest space in Japan and more than 1300 farms are registered. Every morning they bring their fresh fruit and vegetables, which are popular due to their high customer confidence and reasonable prices. Even with a capacity of 200 cars, the parking lot often fills up during holidays.

The many fresh foods for sale at SaiSai.
Some are sold out by the evening, so many regular customers come in the morning to get the most popular items.

SaiSai Kite-ya and Imabari towel worked have together, too. As the first part of the i.i.imabari campaign, the Imabari Towel Industrial Association opened the Imabari Towel CAFÉ on March 9th, 2019. Limited-edition sweets from SaiSai Kite-ya were be sold there. When I visited SaiSai Kite-ya, Mr. Kihara, the store general manager welcomed me.

Mr. Kihara, Store General Manager at SaiSai Kite-ya.
He oversees the entire store.

SaiSai Kite-ya has SAISAI CAFÉ next to the farmers’ market, where customers can find sweets, juice, and bread, all of which use seasonal fruits and vegetables. “This collaboration benefited greatly from the cooperation of Mr. Yamamoto, the manager of SAISAI CAFÉ”, Mr. Kihara said.

Sweets made with seasonal fruits on display in SAISAI CAFÉ.
Mr. Yamamoto, the store manager, can be seen behind the counter.

“While preparations for the Imabari Towel CAFÉ were being made, Mr. Yamamoto and the other staff of SASAI CAFÉ developed the Shimanami roll, a roll cake made specifically for the campaign. I hope you have the chance to try it.”

The dough is smooth and soft with a lot of lightly-sweetened cream. The tartness and sweetness of the fruit fills your mouth, overflowing with flavor. Strawberries, kiwi fruits, and oranges grown in Imabari are used. SaiSai Kite-ya has so many different kinds of fruit that they can always use the freshest seasonal offerings. The fruit sauce is also made from fruit grown in locally. The cake is hearty, but I couldn't resist easting the whole thing.

The Shimanami roll (600 yen incl. tax) was sold at Imabari towel CAFÉ at Texport Imabari only on March 9th 10th, 17th and 24th

“Working with the internationally renowned Imabari Towel brand is expected to bring agriculture in Imabari new opportunities for discovery and development. Although cooperation between the towel industry and agriculture may sound a bit strange, we have a lot in common: in history, tradition, and techniques passed down over time. Above all, both towels and agriculture are nurtured by nature in Imabari. We work together as ʽTeam Imabari’. I hope it creates more synergy and leads to the further development of Imabari.”

The bright future for agriculture in Imabari that Mr. Kihara aims for is also a great goal of the invigoration of Imabari. “I'm really enjoying supporting Imabari and the farmers here,” he says with kind eyes.

I'm into I'm into

Mr. Kihara
Store General Manager at SaiSai Kite-ya

I'm into Imabari towel!

Most of the point of purchase displays in SaiSai Kite-ya are hand-drawn by Mr. Kihara himself. His touching calligraphy, illustration, and copy are impressively done. Although he describes himself as a complete amateur, his work looks professional. He artfully wrote out his answer with his own writing brush pen: “I’m into agriculture.” That says it! Mr. Kihara is into agriculture!

© 2019 imabari city