Posted by: Dr Churchill | November 9, 2015

Innovators, Resilient Noodles, and the Day of the mysterious Mr Momofuku

The “Momofuku Day” was first established on January 2007 at a small hospital in Dallas, Texas.

A group of healthcare workers first celebrated Momo’s day on January 19, 2007.

Each participating employee brought several packages of favorite instant ramen noodles to a banquet table from which employees could share and sample the various flavors.

The second year, on January 2008, participating employees developed unique dishes using instant ramen noodles as the prime ingredient…

Then Momo Day also kicked off “It Starts With Me” campaign promoting charitable giving and customer service.

The Dallas hospital closed in June 2008, but in January 2009, several of the newly transferred employees continued observing the Momofuku Day, by sharing it with their new coworkers at another hospital in Dallas. Understanding that instant noodle ramen has been a staple food for victims of disaster and the poverty-stricken, as well as for college students, office workers, and for all those wanting a quick meal — Mr Momofuku Day became an endeavor to help feed those in need.

Feeding the poor was Mr Momofuku’s original idea and thus today his name day is commemorated by giving food to the ones in need, or by fundraising for charitable organizations, or simply by calling attention to poverty and hunger through instant noodle ramen and other food donations to local food banks and free meal kitchens.

The day has since been celebrated the second Friday of January to allow Mr Momofuku due recognition, but people ought to give food all days of the year to those in need — as Mr Momofuku wryly observed often during his lifetime.

In 2015, Google placed a doodle on their main web page commemorating Mr Momofuku’s birthday on March 5.

The name of the mysterious Mr Momofuku sends chills down the spine of refugee helpers, Japanese entrepreneurs, and people feeding the poor — in equal measure.

But who is this mysterious Mr Momofuku?

Mr Momofuku was born in 1910 into a Taiwanese family in Japanese-era Taiwan, and raised by his grandparents within the city walls of Tainan, following the deaths of his parents. His grandparents owned a small textiles store, which inspired him, at the age of 22, to start his own textiles company in Taipei.

In 1933, Momofuku traveled to Osaka where he established a clothing company while studying economics at Ritsumeikan University.

After World War II, Momofuku became a Japanese citizen and moved to Japan, where he entered Ritsumeikan University and at the same time founded a small merchandising firm in Osaka with the inheritance from his family. “Momofuku” is the Japanese reading of his Chinese given name (百福), while Andō (安藤) is a common Japanese surname that connects him to the region firmly and hides his immigrant origins…

Mr Momofuku was highly entrepreneurial and giving. When he offered scholarships to young students to go to the University — he was convicted of tax evasion by the occupation government, and in 1948 had to serve more than two years in jail. Indeed Momofuku had provided scholarships for students, which unfortunately for him — at the time was considered a form of tax evasion. With Momofuku in jail — his company fell into a chain reaction bankruptcy.

After escaping from jail, Mr Momofuku founded a small startup business selling tiny packets of prepackazed salt.

Soon was thinking of becoming a food merchant to feed his people…

But let’s start things at the beginning…

With Japan suffering from a shortage of food in the post-war era, the Ministry of Health tried to encourage people to eat bread made from wheat flour that was supplied by the United States. Momofuku wondered why bread was recommended instead of noodles, which were the traditional Japanese food and certainly more familiar as a well liked staple food for the Japanese people and for their dietary system…

The Health Minister’s response was that noodle companies were too small and unstable to be able to produce enough nationwide, to satisfy the supply needs of the Japanese people. It was then that Mr Momofuku, decided to develop the production of noodles by himself.

The experience convinced him that “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.”

On August 25, 1958, at the age of 48, and after months of trial and error experimentation to perfect his flash-frying method, Ando marketed the first package of precooked instant noodles.The original chicken flavor is called “Chikin Ramen” It was originally considered a luxury item with a price of ¥35, around six times that of traditional udon and soba noodles at the time. BUT Momofuku, took care of this when he began mass manufacturing and selling cheaply his most famous product, Instant Cup Noodle, on September 18, 1971 with the masterstroke of providing a waterproof polystyrene container, where the hot water goes to cook the noodles inside the cup.

Instant Noodles were an instant success.

Of course like all such overnight successes — this too was twenty years in the making.
People like the story of the seeming instant success and there you have it…

Production was mechanized and automated and with volume pricing, the Chikin Ramen Cup of noodle prices dropped dramatically and instant ramen became a booming business, and a staple of instant food.

Chikin Ramen and other Cup of Noodles from Mr Momofuku’s Nissin Co (1971 ~)

Soon his small Startup company that was selling packets of salt — soon became the Instant Ramen Noodle company that was destined to become the giant company named “Nissin” of Japan. A colossus of a company that is worth today more than 700 Billion US Dollars.

To put it in perspective that figure is more than Apple’s total market capitalization that is $674.95 billion US dollars  averaging the12 months ending Sep 30, 2015.

People liked instant noodles well enough so that taste for instant ramen spread far outside Japan too, and so did sales and production plants… The saltiness is evidence of his attachment to the origins of the business in the salt packets and as Mr Momofuku said: “No need to pour the whole salt packet into the noodle cup…”

In due course, worldwide demand for instant noodles, surpassed 100 billion servings in 2013. As of today, “Chikin Ramen” is still sold everywhere in Japan and now retails for around ¥60, or approximately one third the price of the cheapest bowl of noodles in the cheapest hole in the wall Japanese restaurant, or street cart vendor…

Yet it s sold all over the world too for a smaller comparable price since the rest of the world is still an emerging market for the Japanese instant ramen noodle company that Mr Momofuku created.

But that is long term thinking because back in 1964, when He was seeking a way to promote the instant noodle industry, Mr Momofuku founded the Instant Food Industry Association, which set guidelines for product quality, fair competition, price controls to serve the poor, and introducing several industry standards such as the inclusion of production dates on packaging and the “fill to” line directions, etc.

Instant Ramen noodles have arrived to their own Hall of Fame. And the indisputable Instant Noodle King is Mr Momofuku. He soon became the chairman of the International Ramen Manufacturers’ Association, and the Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum was created and named after him.

He made a little bit of money along the way too…

According to The Financial Times, Momofuku’s invention of Cup Noodles in 1971, at the age of 61, helped spark the popularity of instant noodles in Japan and overseas. In1933, at the ripe old age of 22, Momofuku, the Taiwanese-born young entrepreneur had already built a successful clothing business importing socks from Japan. Six years later, when he moved to Japan — his company was booming. During World War 2, he expanded his business empire to include selling slide projectors to the Japanese government for all the training they were doing during the war. And he kept expanding into other products — like charcoal mining and air-raid shelters.
The war was good to him, financially, for a time. Eventually, he found an accounting problem with one of his companies. The government was giving him raw material to manufacture engine parts, but inventory was missing — probably being sold by rogue employees on the black market. He went to the Japanese military police to get help in investigating the matter of theft of the inventory… But instead of hearing him out — they arrested him, and put him in a military prison where he was starved and tortured. Released 45 days later, the torture and starvation had taken its toll. When he finally recuperated, Japan had lost the war. The economy was in shambles. His factories and businesses were destroyed. He had little left.
But he started again. This time buying real estate people were now selling off at huge discounts. In just a few years, he was sitting on a million dollar real estate empire. His experience with starvation and inadequate food in prison inspired him to start a food business. He began paying young kids to collect sea water, which he’d evaporate, then sell the remaining salt.
But then, the occupying American force arrested him for tax evasion on the $50 a month he was paying the young kids — an amount he claimed was meant for their college scholarship (a non-taxable expense). He countersued, but the lawsuit dragged out, leaving him stuck in prison again, this time for years.
He was eventually released with a clean record, all charges dropped. But the government had already confiscated and sold off everything he owned — all the real estate, the salt company, the charcoal mine, his home. He was flat broke.
So he started again. He helped start a new bank, which got off to a good start. Except the company executed a number of bad loans. And the bank was forced to file bankruptcy. Depositors went after what little he had begun to accumulate.
So he started again. He still had a strong urge to create a food company. He turned his tool shed into a makeshift laboratory, and worked for a year trying to invent a new food product. Experiment after experiment failed.
But in 1958, at the age of 48, this Momofuku of an entrepreneur finally hit a home-run. He focused on an idea that eventually became a company worth 700 billion dollars on the Tokyo stock exchange.

The lowly noodle soup. Hot water, some flavoring in a salt packet and some dry resilient noodles… Resilient noodles?

Momofuku Ando had invented instant ramen noodles. Momofuko’s story is an inspiring tale of perseverance. And yet, I know most people discount the tale, because they think that Momofuko possessed a willpower most of us will never have. We might be a little inspired by him, but we can’t possibly imitate his perseverance.

It is worth noting that Mr Momofuku’s basic innovation was that he filled an obvious need of the market — that the market itself didn’t know it’s need existed…

He didn’t go looking for a problem, nor he found a solution ahead of the need — but he actually solved a simple market product wrinkle.  He was thoughtful and observed how American soldiers ate their Japanese noodles. He noticed carefully that GIs ate their ramen only after breaking the noodles in half, putting them into a cup, and pouring hot water over the noodles. They also ate them with a fork instead of chopsticks.

Momofuku was inspired, to innovate further, and felt that a Styrofoam cup with a narrower bottom than the top, would be the ideal vessel for holding noodles and keeping them warm.

Eating the noodles would then be as easy as opening the lid, adding hot water and waiting.

This simplicity, efficiency, and the low price of his “Cup of Noodles” was a powerful innovation that went on to transform the way we eat.

As a matter of fact, it created the instant food category, and helped feed many poor people too.

Momofuku’s invention of instant noodles not only revolutionized how we eat one of the world’s oldest foods, but it also revolutionized how we feed people in the refugee camps, migrants on the move, and people in need of a quick hot meal…

When I donate loads of food to feed the Syrian Refugees streaming out of Turkey into Greece and on to Europe — Instnat Ramen Noodles is 50% of that. Easy to prepare, easy to transport and a filling invigorating nourishment of hot noodles will revive anyone who has been in the cold waters of the Eastern Aegean Sea.

My charity is always directed to give every single refugee emerging onto the shores at least a dozen instant ramen packages of cups of noodles, to speed them on their journey onwards to a New Life.

And for that I have Mr Momofuku to Thank…

Destitute, wet, and hungry masses of people washing ashore in the middle of the rough sea passage between Greece and Turkey on the Northern Aegean island of Lesvos, need immediate warmth and sustainance. And the instant noodle soup provides just that. It is a good tool to stop hunger and thirst at the same time, and the salt packets are rather useful as they elevate the blood pressure and help people hydrate and also fight against the cold…

Let’s remember that these refugees once out of the sea, on the North of Lesvos, they still have to walk another 40 miles with children on their backs, just to reach the hastily erected official refugee camp, on the south side of the island. THey have to go that route because this is where they get processed to get a place on a boat towards mainland Greece and freedom…

Yet their journey is far from over.

Because they have to walk another thousand miles and in some case far more and across several countries’ borders, just to get to the other European countries, that might offer them hope for work, and a better life, because Greece is a desperately poor country today.

Yet it is a far more welcoming country full of warm and giving people — more than any other…

It is the poor people of Greece that offer the new Ulysses coming from the sea, haphazardly washed ashore — the springboard for their journey to Europe’s industrial cities.

And it is the good fortune of these Ulysses people, who have displayed a remarkable collective resilience, that they land on the shores of Greece. It is an accident and a choice that the survivors of a harrowing journey out of Syria’s war zones, that they wade ashore at the welcoming shore of the northern reaches of the Greek island of Lesvos. This is the place of great tragedy but also a place of great resilience, where you can see today entire families with many children, amid droves of other refugees, coming ashore each and every day from dinghies overflowing with people. And it is heartening when you see them feeding on Mr Momofuku’s  instant noodles supplied by our volunteers providing the water and the hot cup of soupy noodles to each and every person washing ashore.

It’s really a small and simple thing to do. But we are simple people too, and thus we understand how to simply fill a humble human need. Feed the people. No monuments here. Nothing much to see — no big name plans — just people offering a humble service. Water and a hot noodle soup.

God Bless Mr Momofuku for his innovation, because this noodle soup is a godsend, at times like this. Like mana from heaven. Food from up high…

And it is this little food that’s become the “staple” that can also be carried in the perilous onwards journey of the stoic refugee families, as they traverse Greece’s islands, during the harsh Aegean winter. These people are ferried on to the mainland of Greece, and then they set on the long march to Europe.

They have to cross borders and fight their way through to the countries whose very weapons destroyed their own… Karma is a beautiful woman when she looks You in the eye. No?

Yet on our side, we do the little things. We offer some hot soup and water and maybe some chocolate for the little ones.  And maybe we manage to stuff their backpacks with cheap instant noodles so that when they meet the harsh border guards of the Neo Nazi Hungary, or Austria, and Germany — and they have to live in the cold muddy fields of central Europe for weeks on end — they can have a little nourishment, and remember that there are good people on this God’s Earth too.

I’ve seen this simple food saving lives in other refugee camps in other places of this earth… but the flow of people across the sea and land in Greece and on to the rest of Europe — is like a constant sea of humanity. A whole giant refugee camp on the move, walking constantly Northwards, and often fueled only by the soup noodles as they cross inhospitable terrain and enemy borders — albeit always helped along by many very hospitable and kind people.

A moving tide of humans migrating away from death towards Life & Hope.

Who are we to think that we can stand on their way?

Let’s instead usher them forward. Let’s give them what they need to propel them forth. Let’s at least offer them a cup of soup and give them directions to transport.

At the end of the day it is the good & smart people that are helped when they help others because that’s how they get to manifest their own humanity. It makes us truly human every time we help someone else. It blends the bonds of humanity with the innate intelligence of the species as a whole. Really truly intelligent people know this. That’s why we help…

You don’t need a high lama or the pope to tell you that. Just follow the better angels of your own heart. Or follow your own all too human instincts. Help each other. Don’t fall for the hateful depravities of others and of the politicians. Do what You know is RIGHT. And that is what the Good Europeans are doing. Helping along this tide of humanity to reach succour and relief.

It is a huge human migration, but not all people have left Syria. These people who are making their way to Europe are in some ways the best of the lot. They are the risk takers. The entrepreneurial lot who chose to up stakes for a better life elsewhere. THey could have somehow survived in Syria as the majority have from those who have stayed back. But they choose to leave because the reckoned that the perilous journey forward presents a better chance for survival than staying home and waiting for Mr Assad’s barrel bombs to fall on their head. Or for any other number of combatants to bomb them or strife them.

So they journeyed away much like prosecuted people always have done and will continue to do as long as there is war, violence, prosecution and famine. Religious folk might remember the refugee family of Joseph and Mary, fleeing prosecution, and giving birth in the middle of their journey to a child — while sleeping rough in a small barn, amongst animals, and depositing their child in a manger covered with hay for warmth…

Moving on. Escaping the fates of war and violence. Or simply journeying on to follow the flow of life. People will always be there to help you. After all this is what helped Mr Momofuku survive and succeed, because while Momofuku was in military prison camp, a fellow prisoner, who Momofuku befriended — was released. Mr Momofuku asked him to contact another friend — a lieutenant in the Japanese Army — who eventually arranged for Momofuku’s release. The fellow prisoner many years later recalled that He did this because Mr Momofuku was especially kind to him, during his time in prison. Often sharing his food and provisions with the “messenger”

If it wasn’t for those two friends — Mr Momofuku would have likely died in prison. But he didn’t thanks to the kindness of another fellow human being, A fellow prisoner. A stranger…

Yet once released from prison, Mr Momofuku, completely broke and recently bankrupted — started his new venture. A real-estate empire to be… But that wasn’t even his best idea. Another friend, Fusanosuke Kuhara, an entrepreneur who helped create what would become the company Hitachi, mentored Momo. His advice when Japan’s economy was ruined after the war? “Buy all the cheap real-estate.”

And when all of that fell apart, because of capital controls that suppressed artificially the real estate market for many years, Momofuku found himself again completely broke… But he was still able to start a bank this time, because he found enough people who gave him deposits to begin that bank.

And he always relied on people and their goodwill to help usher him along. With instant ramen, he is indebted to the understanding and the help of his wife, who let him continue to work in his invention, and thus allowed him to chase his dream. After all, it was her idea to create a laboratory out of their tool shed. And it was after observing, studying, and eating her cooking, that actually he actually got the idea of how to create instant ramen.

All the rest was experimentation and iteration once the product market fit was fused. Momo’s persistence didn’t come from stoically suffering all by himself. It came from the support of the various people he happened upon or he managed to surround himself with. Either way he trusted the unknown and stepped away from comfort to live free…

He trusted that there is Good people always helping others.

And today there are good people from all over Europe, and especially amongst the Greek volunteers armed with Mr Momofuku’s instant soup, waiting at the beaches, to transport the New Europeans to the next hub — the refugee camp. They are a Godsend for these New Europeans acting as Angels helping whom they can amid the waves of Refugees washing ashore. And the ramen soup goes a long way, especially for the children who happen to love this food. And we should always help these people who are far more resilient than You and I, or even Mr Momofuku, as they are constantly on the move, hoping to arrive to safety, to put their kids to school, to put down roots, and to start gaining their daily bread honestly — through the toil of their bodies, and the sweat of their brow.

Having left behind their whole “life” as they are running away from the bloody sectarian violence we engendered, and the cesspool of ideology, amid the killing fields that their country has now become — these are the New Europeans… and we should treat them as such.

We should remember that well, because most of this hassle is our own doing. So we better help the refugees as they move along to a better place, because the memory of our treatment goes through their DNA to their kids, and soon enough we’ll feel the karma of our actions — Good or Bad.

So let’s at least feed them and speed them through on their way — and not present them with sealed borders, concentration camps, rail cattle cars from the Nazi era, or insurmountable walls, refugee jails, and nimby hate…

Let’s give them some love and help them through, even if it’s in the form of a lowly cup of soup, and a humble piece of bread, given by a helping hand. And, if that’s all we can do — let’s do just that, and we’ll all be better for it.

The experience of having seen this first hand and having been involved in the vast human effort to usher this new type of tide overwhelming Greece — has helped me understand the Historic significance of human migrations, and has even given me a small measure of value for my little charitable mission, and a vast measure of respect for the people who help me carry this through. Thank You.

But first — Let’s feed the people.

It all starts from there…

Everything else follows.

You can’t solve the world’s big problems if you don’t attend to the small persistent ones. Eradicating disease might seem fine on paper, but nourishing and feeding people first, when they wash ashore on their last breath — is what Hippocrates or any other Good Doctor, would suggest.

Ultimately this is the way that I’ve come to think of things…

Feed the people and worry about all the rest later.

Nourish the human Spirit through Love and Kindness and don’t worry about anything else.

Repayment is anyways imminent.

After all — once people are fed, they become strong, and can then take care of themselves…

Mr Momofuku’s fortune and legacy … might be just that.

He fed the people.

Let’s do a bit of that too.



And if you still want to “know” the complete story of Mr Momofuku You can run to the Wikipedia, or just feed some people in your neck of the woods.

Resilience is the main trait of those stoic people traversing across whole continents on foot and rubber boats, and those who survive are the real Heroes.

Yet they are also innovators because they have to find unique ways to survive and stay on the move. Not an easy thing since they often have no money and no belongings hanging out there like a sheet to the wind, entirely dependent on the whims of nature and the mercy of god.

Yet once fed and somewhat settled these are the future Innovators of Europe. The European Steve Jobs, will surely come from this lot, same as the American Steve Jobs, a son of a Syrian immigrant, came to be the leading Innovator of the United States.

And his company Apple became the leading innovation company around the globe. That is why we should show some respect for these newly arrived immigrants and stop calling them refugees; and instead start helping them get settled, because they truly represent the new blood that Europe desperately needs, in order to innovate itself out of it’s moribund existence.

We all call them Refugees, and the Media brands them as such, but that’s not a good name because it connotes to people being like refuge (garbage).

So I just call them with their own names and give them name tags to put on, so that we can all remember their Humanity by using their proper first names. Most of these individuals have Abrahamic names and like You and me these are good folks too…

And so it comes that Alyan, Yasmin, Ali, Rahu, Siri, Habib, Noni, Gihan, Sora, Nabi, Momo, Hamza, Alan, Mahu, Hamed, and so many others are the true innovators coming in as new immigrants to reinvigorate old Europe — and it is our common Hope that they will remake the old continent into a better place for us all.

They not only represent an injection of fresh energy but they also represent the new blood for innovation and growth. Because these immigrants are all Innovators. They are resilient innovators who lost all their comfort and from then on they simply had to survive through their own wits. They had to hack their way through…

They literally had to hack their own Life first and then hack their way through innumerable odds, having to face and solve serious problems, just in order to get to Europe. And then they had to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable toy boat. Not a small feat. Yet once in Greece, they still had to hack their way across borders and to overcome the mean spirited border guards in Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and Germany, just to reach work magnets, in places like Munich, and Berlin, Muenster and Wolfsgburg, or Hamburg and Franfurt. And the refugees go there not because the living is easy — but because it’s hard and because that’s where the industrial jobs and their wages are…

Once there — they will surely provide the lifeblood of EUrope. Mark my words. These are the truly “resilient noodles” out there.

And it seems to me that decent human beings like Mr Momofuku and other startup leaders that distinguish themselves clearly are winners, but they are also “resilient noodles” and are very different than the general middle group in the bell curve as depicted through the long term game of Startup innovation.

Innovators like us are a somewhat like these refugees too.

We hack our own lives first before we attempt to hack products and services that innovate other people’s lives too.

Innovators truly hack the world around them.

They survive by moving along. But they are all rather stoic about it all. Persistent and resilient, always innovating away from the comfort of what has been the norm…

Momofuku was an immigrant same as Steve Jobs was an immigrant’s kid. And in the final analysis… We all are immigrants.

We all are immigrants o this Earth and if you’ve done the Geographic genome projects swab and sent it in — You’ll know what am talking about.

So do you think You have what it takes to be a resilient innovator?

Do you have what it takes to travel like that?

Cross borders without a passport?

Travel for hundreds of miles without anything but the clothes you wear and what you carry on your back?

Can you travel without any money?

Without a smart phone? Or any communication devise? And without any hope of ever turning back?

Can You?

Noodle this one for a moment…

Just Try.

Do this for a week, and then come work with me…

Straight up. Simple straight forward deal…

And if you want to help the Syrian Migration and Refugee effort in Greece and across Europe directly — talk to me.

Please do.

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