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April 18, 2011

Kansai Files: Inventions from the Kansai

Surprisingly many things were invented in the Kansai - the area of 24 million people and the 10th GDP in the world - around Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nara. As Osaka is the city of "eat till you drop down" (kuidaore), not surprisingly these inventions often have to do with food. Another characteristic is that they help make life easier and more pleasant.

Here is a list in historical order: 

  • 1905: Jintan, the famous breath refresher is first sold by Morishita Jintan in Osaka 
  • 1929: Hankyu builds the first railway terminal department store. 
  • 1953: the first rooftop beer garden is opened, on top of the Umeda Daiichi Seimei Building in central Osaka. 
  • 1958: the first instant ramen made by Nisshin. Invented by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food. 
  • 1964: Ozeki (Nishinomiya, Hyogo pref.) starts marketing its sake-in-a-glass-cup called "One Cup Ozeki". Meant as a handy drink for the public viewing the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The first cup sake.
  • 1965: Otsuka Pharmaceutical (Osaka) starts selling Oronamin C, a carbonated drink containing vitamins and amino acids The first health drink.
  • 1968: Otsuka Food devises retort food curry under the name "Bon Curry" 
  • 1969: the first canned coffee was served by UCC Ueshima in Kobe. 
  • 1971: "Cup Noodle" invented by Nisshin. The company now serves an estimated 65 billion cups a year! 
  • 1971: Daisuke Inoue builds the first karaoke machine (in a bar in Kobe). 
  • 1983: The Nintendo Games Console makes its debut from the Kyoto company.