Kangaroo meat is selling like hotcakes in Japanese convenience stores. Sales of protein-related products are skyrocketing against a backdrop of growing fascination for weight training.
All protein-related products grew 40% year on year at Natural Lawson convenience stores from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019.
And September 2019 sales increased 70% YoY, with kangaroo meat being a prime driver at the chain’s 143 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Tokyo-based Vasel Inc. sells kangaroo meat under the RooMeat and Paroo brands throughout Japan, including the roo jerky selling strongly at convenience stores.
“Kangaroo meat is the pinnacle of red meats. Its saturated fats are 20 times better for you than beef and kangaroo meat is really popular among women with a strong awareness of beauty,” a Vasel spokesman recently told the Japanese media.
Vasel’s targets are those seeking an athlete’s diet of high-protein, low calorie foods, and women with a strong awareness of beauty and maintaining a healthy weight.
Kangaroo meat is not produced by keeping roos as livestock, but by capturing wild kangaroos and processing the meat. Vasel has imported kangaroo meat into Japan from Australia since the 1980s. Demand has grown significantly in recent years and it now imports 50 tons annually.
“There’s growing interest in red meat. Game is becoming increasingly popular within the dining industry. Women and athletes who are concerned with their health are eating kangaroo. We have focused on branding the meat as RooMeat since 2014, and the robust sales we’re seeing now are probably reflecting that,” the Vasel spokesman said.
Holden would make the cars in Australia and export them as Holden Premiers, the luxury version of the Kingswood, to Japan, where they would be given even further added attractions.
The car was supposed to be used by high-ranking government officials, but the timing of the enterprise could hardly have been worse.
The gas-guzzling Kingswood-derivative was first sent to Japan in 1975.
Sales weren’t ever as good as hoped for, however, and were not aided by the oil shock, which sent petrol prices skyrocketing throughout the 1970s.
After selling only 800 units in two years, Mazda withdrew the Kingswood from the Japanese market.
The main character of the show, Ted Bullpitt, routinely derided Japanese cars during the program’s run from 1980 to 1984, using such terms as “Datsun deviant” for drivers of Nissan vehicles.
Ironically, the Kingswood would soon become an even bigger icon in its home country with the debut of Kingswood Country, a TV comedy about a bigoted suburban Australian man and his family whose great pride and joy was owning a Kingswood.
But it wasn’t just Kingswoods, either, that Australian automakers (well, Holden) were sending to Japan.
Arguably the premiere Australian vehicle, the Statesman de Ville, had also gotten a run in the Land of the Rising Sun a couple of years earlier and uncannily left an almost identical record.
The de Ville, also made by Holden, had been added to the Isuzu lineup of passenger vehicles for 1973-4.
It retailed at a then hefty 3.48 million yen (when starting wages were just over 60,000 yen per month).
Though car enthusiasts and critics were generally upbeat about the de Ville, it failed to touch a nerve with consumers despite golf superstar Jack Nicklaus being used to plug the car in Japan.
The de Ville was removed from the Isuzu range in 1975 after having sold fewer than 250 cars in the then still booming Japanese auto market.
Alas, despite the best efforts of Australian workers, the Oz automaking industry would ultimately suffer the same ignominious fate as its luxury car exports to Japan had seen: humiliating ends.
Buffered by considerable protection into the 1980s, the Australian car manufacturing industry coughed and spluttered its way through the final decade of the 20th century and into the first years of the new millennium.
But by the second decade of the 21st century it was clear that Australian automakers had priced themselves out of the market, mostly by overpaying C Suite types, but also by being unable to compete with countries that did not pay workers a fair wage.
Holden and Toyota Australia were the last automakers to maintain manufacturing plants in Australia, but both closed in 2017.
Holden and Ford Australia still have design and development facilities operating in Australia, so the country is still theoretically capable of producing cars.
Jack Nickalus advertising the Holden Statesman de Ville in Japan
Having completed about two-thirds of a circumnavigation of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, the final day was supposed to be an easy jaunt to the train station and a comfortable ride home to Tokyo for the Kangaeroo crew.
“Ha, ha,” laughed the devil.
On paper, the last leg of the Biwaichi circumnavigation was a mere 60 kilometers on a flat course, nearly all of which was isolated bike tracks.
For the first hour, that was precisely what Kanageroo and the missus got as they headed out of Seta and off toward Hikone.
The bitter taste of a terrible time at the Royal Oak Shiga slowly dissipating as we rode along Biwa, which offered a clear view of its built-up opposite bank with mountains in the background.
Nearing Moriyama, however, the wind suddenly blew up a storm…right into our faces.
The gentle ride suddenly became a herculean task as we ground the Brompton and BD-1 into the face of the 30-km/h headwind.
The steady rapid pace of the day’s first hour of riding was almost halved in the near gale, and pedaling became even more difficult in the open farmlands near Azuchi, where cyclists got no protection.
Finally, though, we rolled into Hikone at around lunchtime, an arrival somewhat earlier than planned.
It was here that Kangaeroo was to fulfill a 30-year-long dream of visiting Hikone Castle.
Before arriving in Japan in 1988, Kangaeroo read a travel guide that raved about the feudal era castle and its surrounding gardens.
Life intervened, though, and he never made it….until now!
Hikone Castle was a delight! The early 17th century castle is one of only a dozen that is in its original state. Glorious gardens that had once been the havens of the castle’s lords remain intact, as does the inner moat around the castle.
Even more delightful, a yakatabune runs tours through the moat, giving a wonderful look at the castle and accompanied by (Japanese language) guides with expert knowledge on the national treasure.
What’s more, there was also a little touch of Australia with a black swan (endemic to Oz, but this one was born in Japan) swimming its waters and frantically chasing the boat as it headed through the moat.
After an obligatory photo with the castle’s nationally famous mascot, Hikonyan, it was off to Champontei for a bowl of omi champon, noodles that are a local specialty.
Following the hearty and delicious meal it was a short walk to Hikone Station, where the bikes ended their fabulous journey by being packed back into their bags for the train trip home.
Being the year’s last long weekend, the trains were packed as the Kangaeroo crew headed back to Tokyo.
But it was essentially an eventful, though long, journey on the stopping all stations kodama bullet train to Odawara and then suburban trains to get home.
It was an amazing and rewarding journey with special kudos to Mrs. Kangaeroo, Brommie and Birdy for jobs well done.