This Spanish-Japanese family business has risen high above expectations.
Oheso owners Kyoko and Frank have created a successful business and strong international appeal in Hiroshima’s rural destination of Sera thanks to their hard work and dedication to the needs of their customers and community.
Organic Farm & Organic Growth
Frank and Kyoko initially met on an organic farm in Italy and moved to Kyoko’s hometown with the simple intention of starting their own organic farm. When the landowner offered them use of the 160-year-old Japanese farmhouse next to the field, however, they saw a new opportunity and worked hard to remodel the building into what is now the popular Oheso cafe.
When I drove out to Sera to meet with owners Frank and Kyoko in early spring, they told me how the business grew organically. Originally, they started making their own bread for the sandwiches at the cafe. The sourdough bread they made became so popular, they started selling it in a makeshift bakery shop at the cafe. As it became more popular, they started to sell it to other shops and businesses. The Kissa-Saeki cafe for example, uses the Oheso sourdough bread buns on its vegan burgers.
A couple of years ago, they wanted to cater to a wider market of customers than could fit in the cafe. So, when they found an empty Yamazaki convenience store building available on the main road, they saw potential and worked hard to convert it into the Oheso bakery. As the business grew further, they expanded their baking operations into the abandoned gas-station building next to the bakery after remodeling it.
Passion for Pizza
As time went on and the number of regular customers grew, some asked if Frank could make pizzas. Frank told me with a shrug, I’m Spanish, not Italian, but I thought I could try to make pizza if customers wanted it.” On his next trip home to Spain, he brought a small pizza oven back with him and starting serving handcrafted pizzas made with his signature sourdough bread dough.
At the cafe, generous sized pizzas are available with either vegan cheese, dairy cheese, or cheese and meat. Online, there are two types of Oheso frozen pizzas: Vegan cheese pizza and standard Margarita. Take-out of the frozen pizzas are also available at the bakery if you come early in the day.
The pizza oven import business is also an added service Frank does. He told me he imports the perfect sized high-quality pizza oven from Spain which can easily fit in the back of a Japanese Kei-truck (the most typical type of farmer or worker’s vehicle in Japan).
Frank and Kyoko explained the name of their company. OHESO means belly-button in Japanese, chosen because they strive to be a central hub or vital connector for the community. In this way, the Oheso company can act as a central hub that nourishes the community with not only healthy foods, baking lessons, and food services, but it also adds value to the community by reusing old buildings, providing employment opportunities, and revenue streams. In terms of its central role, the name OHESO is a perfect fit.