Yes, you, too, might become a double-medalist in the Olympics, but only if you eat your instant curry!
During Japan’s better than expected showing at the Rio Olympics, Jun Mizutani managed to score both a bronze and silver medal in the men’s singles and team table tennis events respectively giving the powerhouse Chinese team a run for their money.
Now, looking at the top picture you might assume that Mizutani, hot off his Olympic success, has achieved what all international athletes dream about: his face on a package of instant curry. However, you would be wrong.
Jun Mizutani Curry actually started three years ago when food maker Frieden approached the rising star to collaborate on his favorite food. Asking what kind of curry he would like his image to emblazon, Mizutani replied, “the meat and vegetables should be rumbling around in the package.”
▼ “When on tour, I want to take a delicious curry with me!!” (Jun Mizutani)
A curry fan after my own heart, Mizutani’s no-nonsense suggestion clearly shows he knows his instant sauces as well as he does a ping-pong table, and Frieden complied with his wishes filling 50 percent of the pack with meat and vegetables. Once development was complete, the hearty Jun Mizutani Curry went on sale in March of 2015.
Sold through the internet and in table tennis supply stores, they moved about 10,000 units in the year following the release. In a country full of novelty instant curries based on everything from Dragon Quest Slime to the Okhotsk Sea to imaginary boyfriends, it did well in its own niche market.
However, in a single week another 10,000 orders for Jun Mizutani Curry were made following the closing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, matching the sales of the entire previous year. Even as of the writing of this article, the Rakuten shopping site 500-yen ($4.90) packs of Jun Mizutani Curry were sold out.
▼ “The driving force of my power!” (Jun Mizutani)
Table tennis mania in Japan doesn’t stop there either. Mizutani and the rest of the men’s team, along with the Japanese women’s table tennis team winning a bronze, led to a surge in ping-pong enthusiasts.
Table tennis bars and cafes, where customers can enjoy a rally with drinks and a more social atmosphere, have reported a spike in customers following the 2016 Games with visitors up 25 percent. Table tennis supply stores too have seen a larger than expected boost in sales, dealing with a wave of newcomers asking for the same gear the medalists had used.
However, we’ve seen this trend before with the curling boom in Japan following the last Winter Olympic. It was a fad which had gradually faded back into obscurity…much to no one’s surprise.
But a great curry has the power to survive even the most hyped-up and short-lived craze and Jun Mizutani Curry does look pretty darn good. Perhaps one day it will become the Wheaties of Japan with its package featuring all of Japan’s top athletes taking a big bite out of Mizutani’s chunky curry.