Product Made in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture Gets Order Boost from “Ohtani Effect”; Baseball Star Shared Images of Kettle Made by Company

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kaito Kikuchi holds an identical version of the iron kettle that baseball star Shohei Ohtani posted on his social media account, in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, on May 14.
Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani

MORIOKA — A small ironware maker in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, has been swamped with orders from around the world since being mentioned in a social media post by baseball star Shohei Ohtani, becoming the latest business to reap an unexpected economic boost thanks to the “Ohtani effect.”

Inquiries have been pouring in to Oitomi Inc., which makes traditional nambu tekki iron kettles at its workshop in Ohtani’s hometown of Oshu.

On May 9, Ohtani posted photos of an iron kettle and the message “thank you” on his Instagram account. The kettle apparently had been a gift for Ohtani, who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the U.S. major leagues.

Ohtani’s post stunned Kaito Kikuchi, 40, who runs Oitomi. “I couldn’t believe it,” he recalled. “I thought it had to be a joke.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An identical version of the iron kettle

The photos showcased the company’s Miyabi one-liter iron kettle, which costs ¥24,200 and has a blue color similar to that of the Dodgers’ uniform. The kettle has an octagonal body, which symbolizes gradual prosperity and the lid’s knob is decorated with a chrysanthemum shape. The kettle reportedly is popular as a symbol of luck.

Following Ohtani’s post, the company was inundated with orders and inquiries from Japan and overseas. The five Miyabi kettles that were in stock quickly sold out, and Oitomi’s online shop was accessed over 300,000 times in the three days after the Instagram post. The kettle producer’s firm had previously recorded about 3,000 hits on a busy day. Customers placing new orders now face wait times of about a year.

“I ordered the same item as Mr. Ohtani, which I’ll keep as a family heirloom,” a 65-year-old company employee in Sendai said with a smile. “I’m looking forward to it arriving a year from now.”

Kikuchi added, “I’ll be really happy if an item from [Ohtani’s] hometown becomes a regular part of his daily life. I hope this will be an opportunity for people around the world to become more interested in nambu tekki ironware.”

Iwaizumi Holdings, a company based in the town of Iwaizumi, Iwate Prefecture, also has become much more widely known since Ohtani expressed his fondness for yogurt that the company produces.

In an interview published on a company website in January 2023, Ohtani recommended the yogurt by name and added, “It really is delicious. I think it’s the best in the world.” The yogurt was well-known in the prefecture and popular for its springy texture and natural sweetness that came from raw milk. After the interview, sales through Iwaizumi Holdings’ online site saw a dramatic seven-fold increase.

“It was an honor to have the world’s best player say our product was the world’s best,” said Yuichi Sakashita, a public relations official at Iwaizumi Holdings. “We hope Mr. Ohtani will continue to eat our product, and we’ll continue supporting him from Iwate.”

The “Ohtani effect” was also epitomized by a samurai helmet made by Marutake Sangyo Co., a company based in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture. The helmet made headlines when Ohtani wore it during a home run celebration when he was playing for the Los Angeles Angels. They became popular as gifts sent to people who make a donation to a local government under the furusato nozei donation system. In fiscal 2023 alone, the Satsuma-Sendai government collected a total of ¥29.15 million from 29 donations.