TOKYO >> Asana Mori is attempting to raise the profile of fish via YouTube, at a time when consumers are buying and eating less of it.
The second-generation fishmonger has about 270,000 subscribers to her channel, “Sakanaya no Mori-san” (Mori the fishmonger).
Mori, 35, is managing director of Kotobuki Shoten, a fish wholesaler and retailer in Nagoya.
She joined her father’s business after finishing college and working in tech.
“I want to preserve the fish-eating culture,” Mori said. “I expect many people to sympathize with me as I joined the industry as an amateur who likes cooking and eating fish.”
Fish shop workers are early risers.
Mori goes to market at 5 a.m. with her father, Takashi Mori, the company’s president. They buy a variety of fish and pack them in ice for the journey back to work. When they return, they arrange to have the fish processed for cooking. Next, Asana Mori tackles clerical work before moving on to her next job: cooking at some of the company’s restaurants.
During work breaks, she records videos for her YouTube channel.
When she was a child, Mori often saw her father’s customers tell him that the fish he recommended was delicious. In school, she wrote that her dream was to be “my parents’ successor.”
Mori went on to study at Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Studies, which requires students to have a high level of foreign language skills.
Her choice of school was based on a memory from sixth grade. The family had decided to vacation in Hawaii to celebrate her success in the entrance exam for a private junior high school. But her father did not go because of his commitment to selecting fish each day.
“Could you come if you had work overseas?” she asked, and he answered: “It’s a good idea. It’d be nice if I could spread Japanese food culture overseas.”
That’s when Mori decided to learn English and expand the family business globally. After college and a stint at Rakuten Group, Inc., she returned home.
“My father started online sales of fresh fish, but it didn’t go well,” she said. “I thought that I could contribute to my family’s business if I learned to do what he couldn’t.”
Mori returned to Nagoya when she was 24. She started in the company’s restaurant division, then focused on revamping the company’s protocols.
She updated its communication and purchasing system from phones and fax machines to an online system connecting all its outlets, streamlining ordering for the entire company.
She also proved adept at pivoting during the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, the market was overstocked with fish it could not sell. Prices were at rock bottom.
Mori’s company bought the fish and sold them online as Omakase Sengyo Boxes, an assortment of fresh fish processed and ready to cook. Assisted by the strong demand from people staying home, revenue from the boxes at times exceeded the decline in revenue in the company’s restaurant division.
The government’s White Paper on Fisheries shows that per capita, consumption of seafood in 2020 was around 51-1/2 pounds, about half the peak of nearly 89 pounds in 2001.
In a survey about not purchasing seafood, 45.9% of respondents said their family members prefer meat, 42.1% cited the high cost of seafood and 38% said that cooking seafood is labor-intensive.
The data had Mori worried that people would stop eating a variety of fish, leading to a decline of the fishing industry.
Her solution: the YouTube videos, started two years ago. The videos are diverse. In one, she substitutes grilled cutlassfish for eel; another showcases tapas to be served with drinks. Mori discusses each fish and prepares them. To date, her channel features more than 200 videos, and viewers say they refer back to the lessons..
For Mori, success means no less than boosting the entire fishing industry.
“It is meaningless if only our stores do well. I feel I’m responsible for letting people know that fish is tasty and how to eat it.
“I want to act as a go-between for producers and consumers,” she said, “and get more people to like eating fish.”
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