Recently I was rushing around doing our last minute お土産omiyage (gift) shopping for our friends and family back in California. I stopped in one shop to admire some delicious looking jams and jellies from a company called St. Cousair. Looking closely at the label, I noticed something interesting: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” John 15:5
As I browsed through other products made by St. Cousair, I noticed the verse appeared on every label. After purchasing some Earl Grey tea and some little jars of ゆずyuzu marmalade (made from a citrus that tastes like a cross between orange and lemon) and いちじくichijiku fig jam, I hurried home to check out the company online.
Sure enough, on the English page of their website, Mrs. Kuze speaks plainly about the faith of her and her husband and how committing to run their struggling company by Biblical principles turned everything around for them. With business booming and distribution all over Japan, the Kuze’s decided to build a church on the site of their winery. Unlike many “churches” in Japan which are merely beautiful buildings for young Japanese people to hold a wedding, theirs is a real church with services every Sunday. Mrs. Kuze is a seminary graduate and pastors the church there. Since its completion in 2005, over 100 people have been baptized there, a phenomenal number for a rural Japanese church.
In a nation where less than 1% of the population professes a Christian faith, it is rare to find a company that presents Christianity so plainly to its customers. Yes, there have been several prominent Christian companies in Japan (Morinaga, the huge confectionery and dairy company was founded by Christian Taichiro Morinaga, grandfather of Akie Abe, first lady of Japan), but few that are so direct about their faith. One could call St. Cousair the “In-n-Out of Japan” and not be far off.
In any case, I am proud to be able to give such a precious gift to a friend back in California. While the gift is but a token, the story behind it is inspiring. It’s an honor to be able to support a company with a vision to share the gospel like St. Cousair.