The history of the Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottle and company

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What drove me to uncover the history behind the Kikkoman bottle was a blog post but what I found was a story worth so much more then an industrial design assignment.

The bottle designer is a Hiroshima man who after living in the bombing devastation, dreamed of building new things for others. In the 1950’s soy sauce was only sold in very large tins making pouring difficult and messy. As a solution, a smaller bottle fit nicely in a person’s hand where they could control the dispensing. This is why the shape reflects a water droplet, a very natural solution because that is exactly the shape the sauce makes when it falls from the dripless spout. The process took three years and hundreds of prototypes to perfect. This is only one small part of how Kikkoman’s image was created.

Kikkoman is a 300 year old Japanese company that has a history worth telling every American worker. The respect and learned lessons of this family owned business is incredibly inspiring and honorable. The company is guided by a family creed, a set of 16 articles (listed below) passed down for nineteen generations that speaks to the core values that have enabled Kikkoman to survive and thrive throughout the years.

1. Ensure progress and family prosperity
2. Faith is the source of virtue
3. Politeness brings peace
4. Virtue is the cause fortune the effect
5. Preserve discipline and maintain tradition
6. Business depends upon people
7. Education is our responsibility
8. Approach all living beings with love
9. Make every effort to do as much as you can
10. True earning comes from the labor of sweat
11. Strive to prosper together with the public
12. Clearly communicate success or failure
13. Consult with family
14. Don’t carelessly fall into debt
15. Give to society as much as you can
16. Always consult with people before making a decision

Late 2012, Academy AwardTM nominated documentarian Lucy Walker created a short film on the Kikkoman history and coming to America. I highly recommend if you have 25 minutes you should watch the video below. It shares how the 16 articles are applied to their business in a beautiful, peaceful and inspiring voice. If you are only interested in seeing the bottle design story, jump straight to 13:51 where we are introduced to the designer Kenji Ekuan.

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