How to turn your passion into a business.
Multiculturalism makes Oulu a unique and diverse place, especially in the restaurant industry. Here you can try food from almost all over the world. The most popular international cuisines are Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian and Japanese.
Often, when Europeans think about Japanese food, they associate it with sushi. However, the most popular dish in Japan is Ramen! It’s cheaper and hearty; you can customise it to your preferences, experiment with any flavours and components. The two main ingredients of ramen are broth and noodles. So simple, isn’t it?
The ramen cult is rapidly growing worldwide. In five years, the interest in ramen has increased fourfold, according to Google trends. But there are only a few authentic ramen restaurants in all of Finland and none in Oulu. Hitoshi and Chika Ujiie came to Oulu to change this situation and evangelise ramen culture. And we want to share their story with you.
Hitoshi and Chika moved to Oulu one year ago from Hungary in the middle of the pandemic. Hitoshi was born in Sendai but lived and worked in Yokohama. He spent 17 years working in Nokia, mainly in the customer service sector that helped him understand the Finnish culture, working environment, and traditions. He found some similarities and differences in both cultures”.
“Japanese are used to think in details about everything. Sometimes, they ignore logical steps and take serious risk mitigations, then make slow decisions or no decisions.
Finns are used to think logically and quickly but not used to think about robust risk mitigation.”
His position as a customer quality manager in Nokia’s global operations allowed him to travel worldwide and be the mediator between different cultures and mentalities. Therefore, he decided to try his luck to live and work in a very familiar but different environment. Being a natural-born ramen lover, Hitoshi wanted to share his passion with others.
Hitoshi noticed that Finnish people used to eat for a living (surviving), but they like to spend time with friends and family at the dinner table. During the past years, there was a twist in the Finnish eating culture. Eating for hunger was replaced by eating for pleasure. The interest in different traditions and cuisines has rapidly grown up. It allows people to get familiar with other cultures and flavours without travelling across the globe. Asian food is inexpensive, delicious and nourishing, which made it so widespread among Western countries.
Pure Maku is the first entrepreneurial experience for Hitoshi. Setting up a business in Finland was not so easy for a foreigner. Immigration and legislation processes took nearly nine months. Luckily, he got support from his friends, which he met at Nokia, and an agent company for immigration and company registration in Finland, Fintegra. Furthermore, Hitoshi’s friend from BusinessOulu provided valuable information and guidance about the business establishment in Finland.
For many restaurants in Finland, the impact of Covid-19 was dramatically painful. But Hitoshi noticed a significant advantage in it. While the immigration processes were slowly moving on, he had enough time to concentrate on his business plan and development strategies. The restrictions affected many people who used to travel before. We are tired of limitations and so bored sitting at home. These feelings are especially applied to the international community who doesn’t have an opportunity to visit their family and friends. Hitoshi found the solution. Pure Maku allows us to plunge into the authentic atmosphere of Japan. When restaurants were allowed to reopen in April, Pure Maku immediately caused a stir and attention among Oulu citizens.
Hitoshi has ambitious plans for the future. He wants to open his franchise chain of ramen restaurants across Europe and create a global logistic chain importing authentic Japanese ramen noodles.
Come and try his best-seller Soy Sauce Ramen at Pakkahuoneenkatu 5!
Author: Arina Lykova
Photographer: Arina Lykova