Table Speech

Ingredients and Origin of Italian Cuisine

September 9, 2015

Mr. Thierry Cohen
President, Japan Europa Trading Co., Ltd.

 Today let me talk about the history of Italian cuisine, which has spread throughout the world and constitutes a part of Italian identity.

 There are strong similarities between the Japanese and Italian dishes, such as eating raw fish, having a wide variety of noodles and above all, “making the best use of ingredients.” Both are registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 When it comes to a history, however, the two differ greatly. Japan had been influenced much by China, Korea and Buddhism during the Jomon period, including the introduction of rice and chopsticks. Then Japan turned rather closed off to the world from the 9th century and therefore, Japanese food developed by itself over many centuries. Italy had a series of invasions and was constantly subject to external influences. As the Roman Empire started to collapse around 1,500, each region began to develop its own food culture. Today, you find that under the category of Italian food, each region has its unique variety of products like cheese and wine.

 Now, let me give you a brief history of some Italian ingredients.

 Olive Oil: The olive was first planted 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. It spread throughout the Mediterranean 6,000 years ago to be planted all over Italy. Today, Italian olive oil is the top-grade product.

 Tomato: Christopher Columbus brought tomatoes to Spain from Mexico in 1493. The Spanish then brought them to Naples, where they were called “Golden Apples (Pomi Doro)” and became Pomodoro in Italy.

 Pasta: Some mural paintings in an Etruscan tomb dating back 3,000 year show people making pasta. But it was not until the 16th century that pasta became common in Italy.

 Pizza: The Greeks baked round and thin breads topped with oil, herbs and spices. The oldest pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, in Naples opened around 1830 and has an oven made from lava rocks from Mount Vesuvio.

 Parmigiano-Reggiano: This cheese is one of the world-famous cheese among 250 different types made in Italy. The concept of naming food after its place of origin dates back to the Roman Empire and continues to date as DOP (protected designation of origin). In the 12th century, monks in Parma started making this cheese, followed by people in the nearby town Reggio-Romagna. In 1934, people from the two towns concluded an agreement to name the cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mozzarella di Bufala: The buffalos were first brought to Sicily by the Arabs and then to Naples by the Normans 1,000 years ago where people started to make this cheese. It became famous in the 18th century.

 Prosciutto (uncured ham): The recipe hasn’t changed from the Roman period over 2,000 years. You rub salt on the hind legs of a pig and age them.

 As you can see, Italian cuisine had first got external influence, then developed its own identity and later spread across the world. We observe the same trend for organic food. Its market has grown to 72 billion US dollars in 2013 (43% in USA and 40% in Europe) with 10% annual growth rate. Being a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, I sincerely hope it keeps spreading to the world, just as Italian cuisine did.

J-REIT and its Social Significance

September 9, 2015

Mr. Taisuke Miyajima
CEO & President, KENEDIX, INC.

 I will talk about J-REIT that plays a major role in the real estate asset management business today. REIT stands for "Real Estate Investment Trust" and it originated in the US. J-REIT has two advantages: one is the "beneficial tax treatment" as investment corporations are virtually exempt from the burden of corporate tax provided that they distribute the majority of their income from rents to investors. The other advantage is J-REIT offers "liquidity as they are traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange." I can also say the big advantage of J-REIT, especially for individual investors, is that it allows transactions with relatively small funds and its sound information disclosure and compliance mechanisms ensure accountability.

 J-REIT market size has expanded to 53 brands with current aggregate value worth over 10 trillion yen, thanks to its aforementioned advantages and the rise in real-estate markets. Investment targets have also expanded from office properties to rented accommodations, commercial facilities, distribution warehouses, hotels and further to health-care assets including nursing homes.

 J-REIT is also a safe and reliable investment vehicle. The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008 caused about 70 property-related companies to collapse in Japan during 2008 - 2011, while J-REIT chose to merge and remained relatively intact.

 Talking about the social significance of J-REIT, let me quote an example of warehouses which have traditionally been owned by large warehouse companies and failed to attract investors even with low interest rates. The listing of J-REIT specialized in logistics facilities generated innovative momentum in the warehouse market. Propelled by the expansion of J-REIT and its market growth, the unit price rose and further stimulated development. Vigorous buying of new logistics facilities by J-REIT has also boosted e-commerce transactions, expanded new distribution businesses and brought market innovation. The health-care facility market, including nursing homes, is another sector where J-REIT is bringing sustainable market expansion, based on quality service and care.

 While J-REIT enjoys advantages and stability, its future will not be promising once it is regarded to be a profitable financial product solely for the purpose of generating dividends. Active investments by J-REIT into growing markets will lead to enhance market growth as well as create new value in the real-estate sector. At the same time, J-REIT funds invested into real-estate properties owned by companies will serve as growth capital for such companies.

 I believe J-REIT will achieve further growth as it can be a superior investment product for individual investors as well as redistribute capital based on risk/return and keep providing growth capital to wide-ranging markets.