Fresh off the bullet train from Fukuoka in north Japan, Craig Maw and Nikki Mutton have arrived in Osaka for the second leg of their adventure, frying fish and chips for customers at the country’s largest department store
While we knew Japanese culture was going to very different and much busier than what we are used to, we weren’t quite ready for this. It’s everything we imagined, times by the power of 10! Everywhere is so busy and there is just a sea of people wherever you go.
We’ve just finished the first part of our trip where we’ve been frying fish and chips at the Hankyu Department Store’s British Food Fare in Fukuoka for the past five days. They have been very long days as the store opens at 10am, but we’ve been getting in at 8am and finishing at 8pm. It’s worth it though when you see the queue of people each day. The Japanese have been going absolutely crazy for our fish and chips and I can see why, it’s so different to what they normally eat, and food here is certainly an adventure!
Every day the store has been busy, but there was one day in particular, it was about three to four days in, when a film crew came in and we went live on TV. It was quite nerve-racking even though I only had one line to say in Japanese! The presenter ate fish and chips live on TV and gave it a great push. Within an hour of the programme airing, you could feel the tempo increase again where people had seen it and decided to come down and try our food.
The working environment here is very different, it’s nothing like being in our shop where everything is customised to how we want it. In a way, it’s similar to working in our van - the conditions are tighter and the space is smaller - so it’s been quite good to have had that, it’s seasoned us a little bit to being able to cope better.
The reception we’ve had from the Japanese people has been incredible, we’ve been welcomed with open arms. It’s honestly like being a celebrity here as everyone wants their photo with us. Our last customer yesterday not only had her photo taken with us but also brought a pad and paper along as she wanted us to write something for her.
We’ve been made to feel so special by the customers who are so forthcoming with their appreciation for what we are doing. In fact, we’ve got people who came to see us in Fukuoka who are following us to Osaka. It’s taken us about three hours to get here on a bullet train going 170mph, so just a rough calculation means they are about 500 miles apart!
We open on Wednesday and we’re frying through to the following Wednesday. We’re expecting to be a lot busier and have prepared for about 1,000 portions of fish and chips a day. I keep telling myself we did 1,200 portions on National Fish & Chip Day, we just didn’t do it seven days continuously!
As well as working, we’ve also forced ourselves to go out in the evenings. After several long days, the easy thing would be to come back and crash, but we want to make the most of our experience and see as much as we can.
What I think I’ll take home from this experience is the customer service here in Japan. It’s just at a different level. I like to think we look after our customers well, but here they are treated as very, very special and it’s made me realise there’s more we could be doing to take our customer service on a stage. And customers do reciprocate that, the respect for one another here is amazing.
When we land in the UK in about 12 days time, we literally have one day to recover before we fly to Glasgow to take part in an initiative by Seafish where we are traveling in a fish and chip van down to London, stopping at Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham, serving 200 portions of fish and chips each day. Having done our time in Japan, I’m thinking this should be quite straight-forward!