Ajinomoto Co., Inc. is a popular Japanese company known to produce monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG might have a bad name these days but it doesn’t stop the company from operating in many countries abroad. They even have a factory tour in their Kawasaki Plant where the company’s mascot known as Aji Panda guides visitors who want to know more about the company.
Ajinomoto’s Kawasaki Plant was established in the early 20th century. At that time, they were known under the name, S. Suzuki & Co. Ltd. With the occurrence of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the company was devastated, but this didn’t stop them from operating. They began rebuilding the factory into a bigger food and chemical plant. They soon added ingredients to their products such as soy sauce and pharmaceutical amino acids. By the 1960’s, the company had started producing MSG which has since sold millions.
Ajinomoto comes from the words “aji no moto” which literally means “essence of taste.” Its taste combines sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and spice. This is a term called “Umami” in Japan which describes a savory flavor.
The company produces different kinds of food additives and is considered to be the world’s largest producer of aspartame. But what brings most visitors to the Kawasaki factory for a tour is the MSG. Following the panda’s foot trails will lead you to the factory’s main building where you can see several images of the Aji Panda.
You will be guided into a movie experience to learn about how MSG is made together with its history. You will also be given a chance to taste the difference between food (miso soup) without MSG and food with MSG. At the end of the tour, you will also have the opportunity to make your very own MSG where you will be given some checklists about what to do. You will get the chance to taste it as well. It sounds like a great activity to try!
If you are unable to travel to Japan but would like to take a virtual tour, check out the video below!
Whether MSG really gives you a headache or not, it is still considered an important seasoning in Japanese food. The Factory Tour is an interesting way to know more about the essence of flavor. The place can be accessed by a short train ride to Kawasaki. The plant is located in front of Suzukicho Station.
How Refined is your Palate? Discovering Japanese Umami