Intrepid Fijians are making their homeland proud by actively promoting brand Fiji around the world.

Investment Fiji, the country’s principal inward investment and business facilitation agency recently met with one such venturist during the 2021 Fiji-Japan Investment and Trade Mission.

Meet Edwin Kumar proud owner of Airando Fiji Restaurant & Cafe situated on the beautiful Kouri Island in Okinawa, Japan. In operation for over two years now, the restaurant specialises in authentic Fijian cuisines and retails Fijian products and merchandize to Japanese consumers. Investment recently Fiji interviewed Edwin Kumar. Excerpts:

What inspired you or how did you first decide to open a Fiji themed restaurant in Japan?

? Well I wish there was only one reason behind the venture but the truth is there are a handful of factors that impelled me towards this. If I may discuss the 2 main reasons, they would have to be the following:

  1. My weakness- which was discovering my identity
  2. My strength- A true desire to exhibit the power of ‘Fiji Magic’

Well in terms of weakness, after having moved to this astounding country with a staggering population, somewhat 5 times greater than the population of Australia, one would easily be led into thinking that you would rub shoulders with your fellow countrymen time and time again but the fact that there are approximately 200 to 300 Fijians only here. I’ve only met about 8 of them so the feeling of loneliness or homesickness inevitably creeps in. So, that was my weakness living in an exotic land thousands of miles away from home.

My strength, however, was something that I always possessed. It’s always lived within me and it lives in the hearts of every Fijian and that is a desire to exhibit the power of Fiji Magic. There are Japanese locals who have heard of Fiji but have never visited. Some of them do not even know the geographical positioning of our beautiful nation.

This is what empowered me to create more awareness and enlighten the locals here about our rugged landscapes, palm lined beaches and our beautiful people.

All of these were done through 2 things:

  1. A bowl of kokoda
  2. A warm Fijian smile

We believe you are selling Fijian products at your restaurant as well. So, in your view and opinion, how would you best describe the Fijian products?

There are several Fijian products that we have for sale in our souvenir corner. Items such as:

?Fiji curry (microwaveable packs) which is Airando’s authentic creation; Fiji Rums and liqours (Bati/Ratu); Fiji beers; Fiji water; Fiji handmade lotions and oils; Fijian shirts and sarongs?

Well to understand and describe the Fijian products, you would firstly have to understand Fiji. There are so many natural elements involved. It’s the warmth of our soil, the fragrance in the air, the life in our oceans and the heart of a Fijian village grandmother. This is what makes Fiji. If I was given the task of listing words to describe Fijian products with, it would definitely have to be ‘raw’, ‘natural’, ‘pure’ and ‘untouched’. This is what makes Fiji- Fiji and this is what gives our Fijian products the leverage over foreign products.

So, what you are really selling is food and culture. Considering this, how is the overall response of the Japanese consumers towards this proposition?

Being the first in Asia definitely had its share of pros and cons. Upon market penetration with this totally new/ unknown product, a demand had to be stimulated. It took quite a while until things started leaning toward the favourable side of the fence.

It took a lot of time and effort yet once the locals were administered to the true Fijian hospitality they were hooked. Random guests quickly turned into becoming loyal patrons. There are several testimonies of guests who came to experience not only Fijian food BUT Fijian hospitality.

As a business person, do you see opportunities/demand for more Fijian products making it into Japan??

Yes! Most definitely. The barriers to entry are high but with proper due diligence and sufficient planning and execution it is certainly achievable. We are now surviving in an era where collaboration between individuals, entities and corporations are the way of acquiring success. I have a deep belief in our Fijian products. Hands down there’s nothing like it!!

The potential that our Fijian products possess is unquestionable. Speaking of collaboration, I would love to collaborate with individuals or organizations seeking greener pastures in the land of the rising sun. Anyone, anywhere can feel free to contact me for any business proposals.