soybean field

USSEC Honors Hironori Kijima as Pioneer of U.S. Soybean Imports to Japan

USSEC mourns the loss of Hironori Kijima, one of the first advocates for the import of U.S. soy to Japan.  Mr. Kijima was a long time supporter of the soy industry and was instrumental in advocating the import of U.S. soy to Japan.  He was a major contributor to the Japanese tofu industry for the past 40 years as the founder and executive director of the Japan Tofu Association.  The Japanese tofu industry, under Mr. Kijima’s leadership, became the world’s largest U.S. non-GMO market, a position which it still holds.  The tofu industry of Japan currently imports 500,000 metric tons (MT) of soy each year.  Mr. Kijima has worked on tofu quality standard improvement, processing technical improvement, consumption expansion and PR.  He met tirelessly with the Japanese government on behalf of the tofu industry.  USSEC Director & North Asia Regional Coordinator Masako Masi Tateishi states, “Our USSEC / ASA/ ASA-IM Japan office has been receiving immeasurable support from Mr. Kijima over the course of many, many years.”

Mr. Kijima was also a leader among other soy foods associations, especially natto and miso, and met periodically with USSEC between 2003-2006 to discuss the current Japanese food bean situation and methods of improving the industry in terms of raw materials.  Because Mr. Kijima was connected to both the soy industry and MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), MAFF also began to attend these gatherings, requesting Mr. Kijima to form the Soy Food Alliance, which was the origin of the formation of the U.S.-Japan Soy Food Alliance.  Separate from the Soy Food Alliance, USSEC Japan and Mr. Kijima also met regularly to provide updates for each other which led to a very strong partnership and friendship.
In a condolence letter to the Japan Tofu Association, USSEC CEO Jim Sutter wrote, “The U.S. Soybean Industry recognized Mr. Kijima’s strong leadership in the tofu industry, as well as his key leadership in the Japan-U.S. Soy Food Alliance. Recently, in order to meet the requests of the U.S. Soy industry, he made a sizable contribution to establish Japan’s first third party testing system for soy foods and soybean varieties. We truly are indebted to Mr. Kijima for all of his contributions. Those of us who knew Mr. Kijima outside of the soybean industry, knew him of as a kind, humorous man and a man of great honor and strength.”

Mr. Kijima, at the home of Linda Funk with the Japan tofu delegation, is seated at the head of the table. John Shillinger of Shillinger Genetics is with the group.