TOKYO-During a China-themed essay competition held in Japan recently, more than 200 Japanese recalled their memorable moments in China. Among them, 32-year-old Toshiya Ikematsu, who won the top award, shared his perspectives on “made in China”.

“I was amazed by the high standards and efficiency of Chinese factories, and was moved by the friendliness and hospitality of the Chinese people,” Ikematsu told Xinhua News Agency in an interview.

Ikematsu works at the headquarters of major Japanese convenience store chain Lawson. He handles raw material purchasing, distribution and product development. In July 2019, he was sent to inspect food supply companies in China, which was his first visit to the country.

“To be honest, although many of our products come from China, I, like many Japanese, had some doubts about the hygiene and safety of Chinese food before I went to China,” Ikematsu said.

However, trips to the cities of Dalian and Shenyang in Liaoning province and Qingdao, Shandong province, completely changed his impression.

“I really admire Chinese enterprises for their high standards of food hygiene and environment, strict quality management and the excellent productivity of their employees,” he said.

Ikematsu was particularly impressed with the measures taken by Chinese companies to ensure food safety and quality. “Only when I learned about the production and processing of the factories did I realize why the chicken skewers we imported were so fresh.”

He added that, “From raising chickens, to slaughtering to making skewers, the Chinese companies pay great attention to the freshness of food at every stage, and the production process is impeccable.”

Even more surprising to him was the enthusiasm and job satisfaction among employees.

“I visited a food company with more than 10,000 employees. On the factory premises, there are not only workshops, but also parks and vegetable shops. The whole factory is like a small city, and because of this, the employees there work diligently and actively,” Ikematsu said.

He also thinks the Chinese people are kind and friendly. “They chat with an open mind and are very warmhearted. Staff members invited us to their homes, which touched me very much. I really want to say ‘Seeing is believing’ and the visit to China has totally changed my impression.”

He said Chinese goods are now indispensable in Japanese convenience stores. Of the 14,000 Lawson stores across Japan, there are about 3,000 kinds of goods, of which more than 40 percent come from China. The number can reach more than 90 percent in sectors like chicken-related foods.

“We have been purchasing Chinese meat products for a long time, not only because of the price advantages, but more importantly because of the high quality,” he said.

After returning to Japan, Ikematsu wrote of these experiences in an essay and decided to participate in the competition themed “Stories of Unforgettable Memories in China”, which was held by Duan Press in Japan. A total of 82 essays received awards in this year’s competition, with Ikematsu winning top prize-the Chinese Ambassador’s Award.

The competition has been held for three years and the number of essays has been increasing every year, said Duan Press Chief Zhang Jingzi.

“They not only record the experiences of Japanese friends in China, but also describe the authors’ exchanges with Chinese friends beyond the borders of the country. Many of this year’s participants also told stories of the two peoples helping each other to fight COVID-19,” Zhang said.

The collection of winning essays was published in Tokyo. Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou offered congratulations, saying he expected a comprehensive and objective understanding of the real China from more Japanese friends through the essays.

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