USSEC took part in an annual ceremony, Hinotosai-Festival (“the God of Oil Festival”), held in Rikyu-Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto on April 6. Rikyu-Hachimangu is a legendary shrine founded in 859 to enshrine the god and for the prosperity of Japan. The Oil God Festival was a ritual for worshipping the gods of oil. The history of oil in Japan began at this place because the priest of this shrine was the first to squeeze oil from perilla to make egoma and was the sole agent for sales of oil. After that, merchants opened the oil guild. At that time, egoma was used for lighting the Imperial Court, shrines, and temples. Gradually, it spread and came to be used by the general public. The God of Oil Festival has been celebrated since 1130 and was dedicated to Emperor Ojin, Empress Jingu, Oyamagi-no-Mikoto, and three princess goddesses. This area became prosperous, thanks to oil sales.
This year’s God of Oil Festival ceremony was attended by approximately 200 people, 80 of whom hailed from oil and fat industries in Japan such as the Japan Oilseeds Processors Association’s (JOPA) chairman Fuminao Hachiuma and executive director Akira Saito, along with 30 local worshippers and 100 consumers and travelers. USSEC Country Director – Japan Mitsuyuki Nishimura also participated.
In his greeting, Mr. Hachiuma said, “Oil was kerosene, which used to be made from egoma, now now widely used as a human food. However, the role of delivering to customers the basic ingredients that support life is always the same. The current significance of the God of Oil Festival is that the industry will continue to further pursue growth in a united effort while respecting the tradition even in times of change, and is willing to share the spirit of responding to change. In the coming era of Reiwa in Japan, population decline and aging will be in full swing; however, in recent years, the value of oil has been reevaluated by R & D efforts and disseminating information. I swear that everyone will work together to develop the industry more and more.”
2017 Soy Oil Master class graduate Shinji Kimura, managing director of Marukichi Oil Wholesale in Osaka, attended the ceremony and he and his staff also voluntarily and proactively promoted USSEC’s Soy Oil and Soy Oil Master program at his booth during the festival. Marukichi has produced seven Soy Oil Masters from its company so far in 2017 and 2018.
Mr. Kimura commented, “The Oil God Festival is one of the best opportunities to promote and build awareness of the Soy Oil Master and that is why I offered our cooperation to USSEC to make the best use of it. Many people who visited our booth expressed interest toward soybean oil. One of them was surprised by the depth of the Soy Oil Master guidebook contents.” He continued, “The chief priest of Rikyu-Hachimangu shrine also expressed that he wants to take the exam and become a Soy Oil Master in the near future; therefore, we could say that Soy Oil Master is now approved by the God of Oil!”
USSEC Japan is planning to implement another 2019 Soy Oil Master class on June 29 in Tokyo and Osaka, setting a goal of 250 registrants for 2019. To continue to provide further insight about the reliability and sustainability of U.S. soy production, supply, and quality, USSEC will host 2018 graduates for training in the United States in summer 2019 as well, to make a public relations effort to further build positive awareness of soy and soybean oil in the Japanese food industry and beyond.