Kikkoman raising money for Japan relief

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Darryl Enriquez
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
— Employees of the Kikkoman Foods plant in Walworth, the largest soy sauce producer in the world, are raising money for the American Red Cross relief effort to aid those suffering in the destructive aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.

The firm is matching employee contributions, and the executive board will huddle today to consider its own contribution to the relief effort, said Kazuo Shimizu, president and chief operating officer of Kikkoman Foods.

If members of the public want to contribute to the relief effort, they should send money to the American Red Cross, said Dan Miller, a Kikkoman's vice president.

When the earthquake struck, the six Japanese managers at Kikkoman Foods in Walworth were frightened for the safety of family, friends and co-workers in their homeland.

Shimizu said no one affiliated with the firm's employees was hurt and no major injuries were reported.

Kikkoman Foods is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kikkoman Corp., based in Tokyo. The plant northwest of Walworth employs 161 people and produces 35 soy products for markets in the United States, Canada, Mexico and 20 other countries. A smaller Kikkoman Food plant in California employs 21 workers, Miller said.

Kikkoman opened its plant here in 1973.

Four days after the quake and tsunami, millions of people along the east coast of Japan had little food, water or heat. Up to 450,000 people are in temporary shelters. Officials have confirmed about 3,300 deaths, but the toll was likely to top 10,000 in one of the four hardest-hit areas. Another concern is the radiation leaking from a nuclear power plant damaged in the disaster.

"Tokyo metro area is suffering from power shortage due

to nuclear energy plant's

damage," Shimizu said. "The public transportation system is also a mess. The more than half million people who were evacuated are still having a hard time finding enough food, water, etc. Many people remain missing."

Most of the family members of local Kikkoman executives live in or around Tokyo, which is 200 miles south of the earthquake epicenter, Shimizu said.

When asked for his thoughts about the nuclear reactors, Shimizu said: "It is hard to make any comment at this moment. It is still a very serious and critical situation."

In spite of the disaster, production at the Walworth plant has not declined, he said.

"The Japan earthquake has not impacted our operations in the United States," he said. "We are operating normally. Of course, our thoughts are always with our families, friends and co-workers in Japan."

Those thoughts will likely weigh heavily at today's meeting.

"We have a meeting of our executive board scheduled," Shimizu said. "At that time, we will be deciding what contribution the company will make to the relief efforts. Our employees have also started a fundraising drive.

"Kikkoman has pledged to match the donations collected from employees."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Last updated: 2:31 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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