Backstage Path: Popping to Kororing!
When we think about artists, most of us think of dancers, musicians, painters and so on. Yuta Katsuyama, a former established dancer, started his new career as a business designer this summer and now an owner of his store “Onigiri Shuttle KORORIN”.
Yuta went to Keio University in Japan and joined a dance group “JADE”. He started learning one of the street dances, “Popping”. He competed at several dance competitions, making it to the top level. This talented dancer worked for a business consulting company after graduating college where he focused in providing services to the food industry. Eventually, he decided to expand his knowledge a couple years ago by moving to the United States to earn MBA and Master of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. He created the idea of opening a store last summer as a part of his internship. Now he has started his journey as a business designer.
First, let me introduce his store. Do you know what “Onigiri” is? It is a rice ball that is a Japanese comfort food. Onigiri is made from steamed rice formed into the typical triangular, spherical, or cylindrical shapes and usually wrapped with nori (dried seaweed). Onigiri is one of the classic menus for bento boxes in Japan, and often brought to school lunches. Yummy! If you visit Japan, you will see Onigiri at convenience stores, grocery stores and even restaurants. Yuta noticed that there were lots of Japanese and Sushi restaurants in Chicago, but no shops like convenience stores in Japan where you could buy the comfort food, Onigiri.
Yuta’s business idea started mingling in his head. “What can I do to spread the onigiri in Chicago?”. His first idea was pre-order style popup store. “I thought there should not be lots of food loss in this way, which means I could manage store cost-efficiently. I would change the pick up locations every day so I could reach a greater number of customers,” said Yuta. He also mentioned it would allow him to research the customers’ favorites and trends at each area and to collect data for customers’ needs. His store is incredibly unique, but it works!
His love for Onigiri appears on his onigiri menu. His idea is stunning. Think, taste, and make it happen. That is what Yuta does! The store has been only open for four months, but it has a regular menu, vegan options, and some collaboration menus with local stores. All these onigiris are not the typical onigiri what Japanese people imagine, but his creations are amazingly tasty! Recently, he has started making traditional Japanese style onigiri as well. You can enjoy the traditional variations and the unique tasty onigiris at your convenient locations in Chicago!
I almost forgot to acknowledge Yuta’s fun character. He is a quiet hard-working man (Yes, typical Japanese guy’s image!). However, he looks happy and delightful when he tells me about his idea of Onigiri, the business vision and his dreams. I can tell his enthusiasm, passion, and strong energy for his business!
As a business designer, he already thinks ahead! Of course, he will make Kororin bigger and more popular. He is thinking to expand the store and hopefully open more stores in the States. While I am not sure how much I can write his amazing ideas for his business in the future, I have full confidence that this popping dancer will make the America’s Japanese food industry even more exciting and remarkable!
- Mai Claypool was born in Saitama, Japan and moved to the United States to study dance in 2003. She is a professional dancer and a teacher. She has lived in New York, Florida and Illinois. She loves dancing, singing, and eating!