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August 4, 2021

8 minute reading

This article is from our Spanish version Use artificial intelligence technology. There may be errors in this process.

Opinions expressed entrepreneur The contributors are their own.


In Mexico, there are no football matches, meetings with friends or a plate of Japanese peanuts in bars, because this snack is the basic ingredient of any social gathering. However, these nuts layered with flour and sauteed with spices are actually made in this country.Then why do we call them Japanese peanuts ?

The reason hides a beautiful story about hard work and entrepreneurship.

It all started in 1932 when the Gueiyamaru ship arrived at the port of Manzanillo, Colima. Among them, several Japanese citizens went to find new opportunities, which could eventually bring them to the United States.Among all immigrants Nakagu Jiajie , A person who will find love and a new “peanut-driven life” in Mexico.

In the pre-World War II era, only Japanese invited by Mexican residents could enter Mexico; Nakatani came up with a button company called New Japan .

Yoshihei Nakatani Moriguchi’s Mexican Entry Certificate/Photo: Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles via Unknown Mexico

In his autobiography “The tree is still there,” Nakatani recalled the exact moment when he disembarked on the coast of Mexico.

In a world far from globalization today, the cultural shock experienced by the Japanese when they arrived in the West was very strong. Several immigrants married a Mexican woman shortly after arrival to ensure their lives in the country. Nakatani is one of them.

“He knows my mother because she rented a room from my grandmother. She likes to sing very much. She is the official singer of the Japanese colony,” said Yoshio, the couple’s son, singer. , In an interview. “He doesn’t speak Spanish and can climb up to the roof to sing. My mother washes the whole family’s clothes. They saw each other on the roof. My father asked him what he said in Spanish and they got married a year later. He His Spanish has never been spoken well, but he made himself understand.”

When war broke out between the Allied forces and the Axis powers, things got complicated. Kato Shiokai, the owner of The New Japan, was deported to Japan on suspicion that he was a spy (about the same time as the deportation of hundreds of Nazi spies from Aztec land). Because of this, he closed his business and Zhonggu lost his job. There are already a wife and six children to raise, and a livelihood must be found as soon as possible.

One of the “El Nuevo Japan” warehouses, owned by Heijiro Kato/Photo: The Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles, passing by unknown Mexico

Nakatani and his wife Emma started selling various snacks at home. Yoshigei recalled that when he was young, he made sweets in his hometown of Sumotoshi in Japan.There he learned to make a traditional muéganos called “oranda” and a technique called covering seeds “Douban” . This will be the source of inspiration for his legendary snacks.

Nakatani wanted to make peanut, soybean and rice noodle snacks, but had to change it to wheat noodles. They are very successful in the iconic La Merced market and the Central de Abastos market in Mexico City. Actually, According to the page Consumers at the Mexican Institute of Radio Research (IMER) said “sir” when they went to buy peanuts. Japan”, hence the origin of the name of the snack.

Picture: Zhonggu Family Collection

Yoshigei and Emma began to make their children responsible for sales at home, and went out to sell products to candy stores. The demand is so great that they can no longer produce by hand and have to make machines at home to speed up production. Soon after, they rented a place in the same block and moved the machine from their home to a place in the office of the mayor of Iztapalapa in Mexico City.

In 1950, they wanted to make the company more formal and named it Nippon with the help of their son Armando Nakatani. One of his daughters painted a famous geisha, which can be seen on the peanut packaging logo to this day. In the 1970s, the couple’s children continued to develop their business and were able to leave La Merced.

Yoshigei and Emma Nakatani / Photo: The Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles, passing by unknown Mexico

According to the blog Aurelio Asiain, since 1975, Nipon became a company in various forms and registered a trademark in 1977. However, large manufacturers took advantage of the time when the family had not yet applied for a patent for the product or name to include Japanese peanuts in their sales.

In the 1980s, several large companies had begun to sell peanuts, and the consumption of this snack increased sharply.

According to singer Yoshio, Nakatani is facing several financial problems because it is difficult to buy peanuts in Mexico, because large companies monopolize national production. An interview Years ago. Japan has to import peanuts from Brazil.

Mexican peanuts?

The Nakatani family business continued to operate normally until Nipon was acquired by the snack manufacturer Totis in 2017. Official website .

Now, the biggest question is: Are Japanese peanuts really called Mexican peanuts in Japan?

according to Douji On the company page, Douji came to Japan from China through Zen monks in the 15th century and was consumed in Kyoto. However, among the many varieties consumed in the former capital of Japan, there are those produced in Mexico by Nakadani.

However, according to vice The uniqueness of Japanese “Mexican peanuts” is that they have the taste of tacos, not because they are from Mexico.

In any case, it is clear that the new generation does recognize that this particular peanut recipe is Mexican.

Although the business world has changed over time, we can learn a few things about entrepreneurship from Gigi and Emma:

  1. Look for new things that you must bring to the market. The Nakatani family started selling well-known snacks, but it was not until they decided to create a new snack that their success began.
  2. You can start with what you have. All they need is a good idea and advertise in their own community. They have no money, they make peanuts by hand and sell them in their own homes. They optimized their resources to enable them to grow.
  3. Look for opportunities outside your comfort zone. For Yoshigei, the easiest thing is to find a job, but he decided to work hand in hand with his wife to create something of his own.



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