By Seiya Arakawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterEggs are being cracked so fast it’s impossible to follow, with yolks and whites separated in an instant. “Six hundred eggs are cracked every minute,” a tour guide at Kewpie Corp.’s Koromo Factory said, explaining the process as she held one of the devices that can crack 10 eggs a second.
“The egg is placed on its side, then a crack in the belly is made by two blades pressed against each other. The blades separate to the left and right to open the shell, and the inside drops down onto a dish. The dish’s V-shaped design causes the egg white to flow out,” she explained.
The device was developed in-house by Kewpie, a well-known mayonnaise maker, to extract egg yolks, a main ingredient in mayonnaise.
“The mayonnaise with the red cap is the yolk variety that is made only using the yolks. Our main 450-gram product contains about four yolks,” said Yuka Tsuboi, 37, chief of the improvement and planning department. Every day 340,000 eggs are cracked, with farmers in Aichi Prefecture and the surrounding area contracted to supply them.
The tour starts with the egg-breaking process on the third floor.
Mistaken for hair oil
There are a number of theories about the origins of mayonnaise. One dates back to the mid-18th century in the port town of Mahon on the island of Minorca, which was then a British territory. The story goes that a French duke encountered the condiment during an attack on the island by the French military. Made with eggs, oil and lemon juice, the original name was “mahonnaise,” which became mayonnaise when it was introduced to France.
Mayonnaise was first made in Japan in 1925 — Kewpie was the first brand. Company founder Toichiro Nakashima was from Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, and was sent abroad as a trainee by the then agriculture and commerce ministry. He noticed mayonnaise when he tasted it in potato salad in the United States and was impressed with both its good taste and high nutritional value.
Back in Japan, he created a product with twice the yolk as imported mayonnaise in the hopes of improving Japanese people’s physiques. Ever since, the company’s main product has been yolk-type mayonnaise. At first, people did not even know the word mayonnaise, and some people mistook it for hair oil.
Nakashima named the company after the Kewpie dolls that were popular at the time. Now, Kewpie holds the largest share of the household mayonnaise market in Japan.
After the egg-breaker takes the yolk, what happens to the white? “The egg whites are used in cakes and kamaboko fish paste, the eggshells in chalk and crackers, and the eggshell’s membrane in cosmetics and fiber, as well as other products,” the tour guide explained.
The tour then moved to the second floor, where tartar sauce and mayonnaise were being packed into plastic bottles on a production line. “The Koromo Factory is where we try out new products and make those with high added value. About 260 different products are made here,” said Kewpie spokesperson Akiko Kawamura, 38.
Mayonnaise came into widespread use as people’s diets Westernized during the period of rapid economic growth. Statistics from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry indicate that over the last several years, households of two or more people have bought about 2,500 grams of mayonnaise per year. If each bottle contains 450 grams, this means the typical family buys a bottle of mayonnaise about every two months, making it a staple condiment.
Fans who put mayonnaise on everything are called “mayorers.” As one of them, this factory tour let me get a little bit closer to the product I love.
Kewpie Koromo Factory
Address: 2-1 Nichinan-cho, Toyota, Aichi Prefecture
Tel: (0565) 34-0221
Tours are free but require a reservation. One-hour tours are given twice a day at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The factory is a 10-minute walk from Toyotashi Station on the Meitetsu Mikawa Line and Shin-Toyota Station on the Aichi Loop Line, or a 15-minute drive from the Toyota Interchange on the Tomei Expressway.Speech