Seaweed, Sea Products / 海苔、海産物

Established in 1706, Yokotaya Honten began the breeding of seaweeds since 1857 in Kesennuma. Yokotaya Honten produces high quality products utilizing local resources and the blessings of nature, manufactured using traditional methods so as to preserve the taste passed down from previous generations. However, it hopes to change its business style to catch up with times, and to suit modern customers’ needs.

Two designers- Mag from Malaysia and Xiaoxi from China, together with an interpreter, spent a few days with Yokotaya Honten. Dive into their stories and find out about their motivations for joining, experiences during this program, and thoughts after participation.

創業1706年(江戸・宝永三年) 、気仙沼で1857年(江戸・安政四年)に海苔の養殖をはじめました。時代時代に合わせて商売の形を変え、そして自然の恵みを大切に、独自の製法と伝統の味、地元の食材を丁寧に作って発信している海苔と海産物の老舗です。

マレーシアのMagと中国のXiaoxi、日本在住の留学生1名がコーディネーター兼通訳として加わり共に時間を過ごしました。 彼らはどんな想いで日本に来て、プログラムを通じてどんなことを経験し、終了後に振り返って何を想うのか。STORYをご覧ください。



It was one of the most amazing, breathtaking experiences I ever had.


I was so nervous at the beginning, from the stage of preparation to meeting new people from different cultures – the designers from 8 different countries, people in Door to Asia and people in Tohoku. Some say Japanese graphic design is so advanced that I have to do well during DTA program. Some say Japanese people in small town aren’t so open-minded to foreigners especially when it comes to business-related projects. Some say DTA program is so fun that you could never imagine til you get there! Yes, I’ve heard of a lot of rumours, which makes me stressful, worried and but yet excited before the trip. Things changed when I met everyone in DTA.

8ヵ国のデザイナーたち、DOOR to ASIAの皆さん、そして東北の皆さんに会うことが不安で、準備段階からとても緊張していました。日本のグラフィックデザインは先進的なので、DOOR to ASIAでは真面目にやらないといけないとか、東北の小さな町はとても保守的で、外国人に対して冷たく、ビジネス関係だったらなおさら歓迎しないじゃないかとか、DOOR to ASIAはとにかく楽しい!とか、参加する前に様々な声を耳にしました。色々な噂を聞いて、ワクワクすると同時にドキドキも隠せなく、緊張と不安が入り交じった複雑な感情でいました。しかし、皆さんに会った瞬間にすべてが変わりました。

Miki-san contacted me, and I met with Kato-san and him once before the trip. Meeting them and seeing their smiling faces for the second time in our first guesthouse, Little Japan, Tokyo warm me up. Everything will be alright, I told myself, and the trip went really smooth for the coming 12 days. I met lovely and talented designers (Roxy, Jeff, Sudeep, Jay, Gook, In-ah & XiaoXi), translators (Jing, Grace, Dennis, Rahul), staffs from DTA (too many to list!) who worked really hard during the trip – people who I never expected to be so close, to get drunk and laugh really hard together towards the end. We ventured into our journey from Tokyo to Rikuzentakata in Tohoku, where we spent most of our days during the program. The guesthouse, Hakoneyama Terrace was awesome, with stunning view of the ocean surrounded by mountains and stars (and Totoro), it’s a perfect place to meditate and explore our creativity! We were brought to museums and places that document and shown the aftermath of Tsunami in 2011, which is solemn and heartbreaking, yet we can see that people in Tohoku are so positive, strong and welcoming through what they’ve done to the community and how they treated us. I am truly touched and amazed.

スタッフの矢部さんから連絡が入り、そしてDOOR to ASIAに参加する前に一度同じく運営メンバーの加藤さんに会いました。最初に泊まったゲストハウスのLittle Japanで皆さんと再会し、皆さんの笑顔を見て緊張がすぐにほぐれました。大丈夫だと、自分に言い聞かせながら、12日間のプログラムに臨みました。優秀なデザイナー(Roxy、Jeff、Sudeep、Jay、Gook、In-ah、Xiaoxi)、通訳コーディネーター(Jin、Grace、Dennis、Rahul)、そしてDOOR to ASIAのスタッフ(多すぎるので省きます!)の皆さんに会えてよかったです。プログラム中は一緒に仕事したり、仲良くなったり、酔っぱらったり、そして笑ったりする時間をともに過ごしました。東京から東北の陸前高田に行って、そして息を呑むほど美しい海と山に囲まれ、綺麗な星空が見える素敵な箱根山テラスに滞在しながらDOOR to ASIAが展開されました。箱根山テラスはとにかく居心地がよくて、心が落ち着くし、創造力が高まる場所でした。2011年に起きた東日本大震災とその後のことを学ぶために、リアスアーク美術館をはじめとする色々な場所に連れて行っていただきました。とても残酷な災害でしたが、東北の皆さんは前向きで、強くて、町のために一生懸命頑張って、そして私たちを温かく歓迎してくれました。私は言葉を失うほど感動しました。

Also, meeting Ikari-san and his wife and staying with them in Kessenuma is such a precious gift to me. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about their company (Yokotaya Honten, since 1706), the history and process of seaweed-making, their family and most importantly, a new perspective of life – 他利と自利 (benefits for all). During our stay, Ikari-san showed XiaoXi, Jing and I the beautiful places in Kessenuma, shared his experiences and stories grewing up in the town with his family and brought us to visit his shop and factory. No doubt, we were fed by a lot of good food, probably the best Japanese food I ever had! One of the most incredible things is, we have the chance to see Yokotaya Honten’s beautiful packagings, which have been kept for more than a hundred year and they are not exposed to the public yet. To me, they are so valueble that should be kept nicely in the museum! Somehow, the beautiful essence of the brand packaging is losing in their current products, which doesn’t really tell the story of the brand, the family, its history and quality that are matter to the locals. The product quality is awesome, the owners are honest and ethical, but they are facing a problem which most of their customers aged above 60 now. I was also told that younger generation in Japan perceives nori products as traditonal and old, but the business could not be continued without the next generation. In my opinion, Yokotaya Honten needs a new brand image and business model with exciting packaging and other promotional items to attract the younger generation. Besides that, Ikari-san also hope their children would come back to this beautiful but small town in Tohoku, to continue their business and create new sparks. I wish I could help.


I came out with a proposal with a new Visual Identiy & Product System, to create a new impression to the younger generation with fresh image while keeping its original essence using their elements from the old logo and packaging. I suggested a label design to keep the product image consistent so that people will remember the brand easily. Moreover, I think creating a new way of eating onigiri by giving a convenient pack as a gift during the gathering could be quite cool for the young people, as less people are getting married and cooking at home nowadays in Japan. With this gift set, people can cook and show their love easily during their gathering time, while keeping the tradition of eating onigiri and nori together. An online buying system is also introduced so that people from every part of Japan and eventually the whole world can buy their products!

私は、本質を保つために本来のロゴやパッケージを残しつつ、若い世代に新鮮なイメージを与えるために、新しいビジュアル アイデンティティと商品システムを提案しました。まず、人に商品のイメージを覚えてもらうために、統一されたラベルデザインを作成しました。更に、日本では結婚する若者や家で料理する人が減少しているので、若者の集まりなどで贈り物として売れるお洒落なおにぎりセットを提案しました。この贈り物用のお洒落おにぎりセットを使って、若者の集まりで一緒におにぎりを作ることによって海苔を食べる習慣を保つことができます。そして、日本全国、または世界中からオンラインで買えるシステムを導入する提案をしました。

To me, the international exchange in design knowledge is just a minor part of the trip. Making friends, understanding and knowing each gave me a new aspect of life and thinking. And even though we are different, we have the same objectives thoughout the design process, which is to come out with solutions to contribute to the local company and the whole community in Tohoku, to create sparks and hope. What Ikari-san’s family contributed to the community since 400 years ago and how Ikari-san helped the people in the town especially after Tsunami truly impressed me.
One important message he taught me:
We make a living by what we get, we get a life by what we give. Good things will always come back.

He’s like a dad to us now.




To all my friends in DTA 2017, I wish to see you soon!

DOOR to ASIA 2017の皆さん、またお会いできることを楽しみにしています!




After arriving in Tokyo, we went to Tohoku the next day, visited the Tsunami Memorial Hall of Rikuzen takata and saw the ongoing reconstruction. During the time I spent with other designers, I was excited to find out that different backgrounds lead to different design perspective. Some designers are specialized in branding design, and some are illustrators, I do publication design in Beijing, and finally I found that using the idea of doing book design to do branding is also an interesting attempt.


I also worked with local children to do workshops. Children in each group drew pictures first, and then designers did a simple design based on paintings within 10 minutes. Kokomi, 9, and I were assigned to a group, our group was named “aka”, and then I made a group logo based on Kokomi’s favorite things. (she likes red and shiso). I also tasted the snacks brought by designers from other countries!

今回のDOOR to ASIAの中で、地元の子供達と一緒にワークショップをやりました。各グループの子供がまず自分で絵を描き、デザイナーが10分以内にその絵をベースに簡単なデザインを作るというワークショップでした。私はココミちゃん(9歳)と同じグループ(グループ名は“あか”)になり、ココミちゃんが描いた好きなもの(赤色と紫蘇)を使たグループのロゴをデザインしたのです。ワークショップの間はほかの国のデザイナーが持ってきた自国のお菓子を食べながら楽しみました!

YOKOTAYA is an old shop with more than 300 years of history, mainly engaged in seaweed products, its business market is mainly in the northeast region. Nowadays, it aims to further expand the young consumer market, looking for a way to continue the tradition and integrate into the young market. After the tsunami, YOKOTAYA wishes to develop more environmental friendly and recycling products. By designing a new visual identity and updating the product packaging, my design conveys the visual language of tradition, vitality and sustainability, which helps YOKOTAYA to expand its market.


Ikari san is the owner of YOKOTAYA, but he is not like a boss. He likes slow-paced work and life, and he is not in a hurry to make more money. This kind of business attitude in China or big city like Tokyo, is rare.

Ikari San is actually a very interesting person, he is not only the owner of the seaweed shop, but also a professional Motorcyclist.



In the Yokotaya store, his mother showed me the packaging of the products from the 1920s, those bags are very beautiful, it makes me feel very shocked, at the same time, I am also a bit sad, because the current Yokotaya packaging does not reach the same level of quality, and has become similar to other brands. This is a problem that needs to be solved. It might be possible to try to redesign old-fashioned packaging, maybe it could become popular.

Ikari San told me that he wishes to make more efforts to sustainable development, due to the excessive marine fishing of neighbouring countries, which had led to fewer resources. As a businessman, he must consider the full use of resources to survive. Through my talk with him, I also learned to not think from a designer’s view, for example, for an old traditional brand, abrupt change is risky, although visual design may take a big step, at the same time it may also lose a lot.



During my design thinking, I had a lot of discussions with Mag, focusing mainly on what the most urgent problems faced by YOKOTAYA were and how to handle them. Finally, Mag chose to redesign a series of illustrations for the brand, so cute, but for me I focused more on redesigning the packaging using fonts and graphics, which makes it look more “commercial.”


Design can change more than we think. I hope the designers I met in Door to Asia can make changes through design to make life better. People in Tohoku are responsible, and I’m touched by everything you do for your hometown. Please keep on. Thank you to all the Door to Asia staff, your dedication and perfect arrangement allows designers to work smoothly. I suggest one day all the designers’ presentations can be made into books! And I also wish more and more outstanding designers can join this meaningful program!

デザインは私たちが思う以上に力を持っています。今回DOOR to ASIAに参加したデザイナーのみんなは、これからもデザインを通してより良い生活を作っていかれることを願っています。


そして、DOOR to ASIAスタッフの皆さん、デザイナーが最高な環境で活動できるように運営していただいてありがとうございました。今回参加したデザイナーたちの提案がいつか一冊の本になるといいですね。そして、これからもより多くのデザイナーたちにこのとても意義のあるプログラムに参加してほしいと思います。