When it comes to rice crackers from Yamagata, no other company does it better than Sakata Beika (酒田米菓)! Priding themselves with creating the best rice crackers made with non-glutinous domestic rice, Sakata Beika is our featured maker of the month. JAPAN RAIL CLUB spoke to Imai-san (今井) from the Planning Department to learn more about Sakata Beika and their delicious rice crackers.

 

Imai-san, thank you for accepting our interview request! Firstly, please tell us more about Sakata Beika and its origins.

The company was founded by Eikichi Sato (佐藤栄吉), who ran a rice shop in the former town of Yawata-machi (八幡町) in Yamagata Prefecture (山形県). 

Recognising the limitations of his business as a rice shop, Sato-san believed in the importance of acquiring processing skills and turned his attention to senbei (煎餅・せんべい) or rice crackers, which was previously manufactured through specialisation. This led to the establishment of Sakata Beika in 1951 (Showa 26), starting with wholesaling dough to senbei shops and eventually expanding to handle all aspects of senbei production and sales.

 

Oranda SenbeiOranda Senbei is characterised by its ultra-thin thickness. | Photo by Sakata Beika

 

That is so inspiring! We know that Sakata Beika’s main brand is “Oranda Senbei”. Could you tell us more about the brand and the story behind such an interesting name? 

Yes, Sakata Beika’s representative brand is undoubtedly “Oranda Senbei” (オランダせんべい). The name “Oranda Senbei” was derived from the fact that the landscape of Shonai, with its rice paddies, resembles that of The Netherlands. 

Also, in the Shonai dialect, “we” is “orada” (おらだ). So to say “our senbei” in Shonai dialect would be “orada no senbei” (おらだのせんべい), which eventually evolved into “Oranda Senbei”.

 

That is so interesting! As you might know, two of Sakata Beika’s snacks are part of the ensemble in this month’s “Yummy Yamagata” Omiyage Snack Box, including the “Oranda Senbei Grilled Corn” (オランダせんべい 焼きとうもろこし). What is the main selling point of this snack?

 

Production photos of Oranda Senbei by Sakata BeikaPart of the production process of the well-loved Oranda Senbei. | Photo by Sakata Beika

Oranda Senbei is a well-loved brand across all ages! Since its launch in 1962 (Showa 37), 200 million pieces of rice crackers have been produced annually, making it our flagship product. 

 

Oranda Senbei Grilled CornOranda Senbei Grilled Corn (オランダせんべい 焼きとうもろこし). | Photo by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Made with 100% domestic uruchi (non-glutinous) rice produced in the Shonai area of Yamagata Prefecture, which is one of Japan’s premier rice-producing areas, Oranda Senbei’s original rice crackers are baked with an ultra-thinness of only 3mm. 

Oranda Senbei rice crackers also feature a crispy texture and a lightly-salted flavour which enhances the natural deliciousness of the rice. With the Grilled Corn flavour, savour the addictively sweet and umami flavour of grilled corn that has been a popular product among people of all ages since its release. 

 

What about Sakata Beika’s other snack “PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU Dondonyaki” (PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU どんどん焼き)?

PARIPARI x SAKUSAKU Dondonyaki Rice CrackersPARIPARI×SAKUSAKU Dondonyaki (PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU どんどん焼き). | Photo by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Our PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU series features original and unique crispy rice crackers and crunchy chocolate rice puffs in the style of Yamagata, by introducing not only local Yamagata flavours but also eye-catching and modern packaging with Yamagata motifs and designs.

This sauce-flavoured snack is inspired by Yamagata’s soul food: dondonyaki and features the hanagasa flower hats, from the exciting Yamagata Hanagasa Festival in summer, on its packaging. Enjoy bite-sized thin rice crackers with aosa seaweed kneaded into the dough!

 

Rice fields in Sakata, with Mount Chokai in the backgroundRice fields in Sakata, with Mount Chokai in the background. | Photo by Sakata Beika

 

Are there any noteworthy features in terms of the production of Sakata Beika’s products?

We use only domestically produced rice for our raw materials. This ensures that the origin of the rice is clear and undisputed, allowing for us to process them with a peace of mind. We are very particular about the quality of rice used, as we want our customers to be able to enjoy the natural flavour of the rice itself.

 

Sakata Beika FactoryThe rice crackers are handled carefully by hand, ensuring quality products. | Photo by Sakata Beika

As for exports, our rice crackers have been sold in Australia, Switzerland, the United States of America, and Hong Kong. 

 

Oranda Senbei Nibosen by Sakata BeikaOranda Senbei Nibosen, a collaborative effort between Sakata Beika and Sakata Ramen Research Association. | Photo by Sakata Beika

 

You’d be happy to know that your products will reach out to a wider international audience through JAPAN RAIL CLUB! Are there any products or initiatives that align with sustainability or eco-friendliness goals?

Yes, it would be the “Oranda Senbei Nibosen” (オランダせんべいにぼせん). It is an SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) product created in collaboration with the Sakata Ramen Research Association (酒田のラーメンを考える会), in which dried sardines used to make ramen soup stock is kneaded into the dough. After baking, two types of locally-harvested salt (containing dried sardine powder) are used to season the thin rice crackers. 

This initiative helps reduce waste by approximately 40kg per production run.

 

Oh, the Oranda Senbei Nibosen was a hit when they were introduced in our “Taste Tohoku Treats” Omiyage Snack Box earlier in March 2024! Thank you for sharing that insightful information with us! 

Speaking about insightful information, I would also like to share something that would interest your readers! 

Did you know that Oranda Senbei has a factory that is open to the public for tours? 

 

Oranda chan, mascot of Oranda SenbeiSay hello to Oranda Senbei’s mascot, Oranda-chan (オランダちゃん)! | Photo by Sakata Beika

Located along the Mogami River, Oranda Senbei Factory (オランダせんべい FACTORY) is a facility where visitors can learn about the history of Oranda Senbei and observe the entire production process of Yamagata’s beloved soul food. From the entrance to the exit, this factory is a whopping 395m in length! You can also sample fresh-off-the-grill rice crackers made on the same day.

 

DIY senbei-making experience at Oranda Senbei Factory.
DIY senbei-making experience at Oranda Senbei Factory. | Photo by Sakata Beika

Other than that, there is also a hands-on senbei experience at the cafe, where you can bake the dough yourself and enjoy the taste of freshly baked rice crackers. You can choose up to two flavours from around 11 varieties, allowing you to make your own original rice crackers according to your preferences.

 

Oranda Senbei souvenir shopOranda Senbei products at one of our shops. | Photo by Sakata Beika

 

That sounds exciting indeed, especially getting to make your very own rice crackers! Where is the Oranda Senbei Factory located, and are there any notable shops where visitors can check out Sakata Beika’s products?

Oranda Senbei Factory (オランダせんべい FACTORY)
Address: 2-24 Ryoucho, Sakata, Yamagata 998-0832
Access: 10-minute taxi ride from Sakata Station
TEL (Headquarters): +81 234-22-9541
*Oranda Senbei Headquarters Office is located within Oranda Senbei Factory.

For those visiting Yamagata:
Yu-Yu-Yu no Sakata Beika @ S-PAL Yamagata (遊友結の酒田米菓 S-PAL 山形店)
Address: 2F, S-PAL Yamagata, 1-1-1 Kasumi-cho, Yamagata, 990-0039
Access: Directly connected to Yamagata Station
TEL: +81 23-673-9546

For those in Tokyo:
Sakata Beika Antenna Shop (酒田米菓アンテナショップ)
Address: 5-3-10 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0012
Access: 1-minute walk from Hiro-o Station
TEL: +81 3-6721-6552

 

A representative from Sakata BeikaImai-san from Sakata Beika! | Photo by Sakata Beika

 

Thank you so much for your time, Imai-san. We hope that more overseas customers will come to know about Sakata Beika’s delicious rice crackers. Do you have a message for our readers at JAPAN RAIL CLUB?

Apart from Oranda Senbei, Sakata Beika also produces and sells a variety of other tasty snacks, including the PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU series which features rice crackers and rice puffs with Yamagata local flavours. All of our products are made with domestic Yamagata rice, and you can be sure to enjoy the natural deliciousness of rice with every bite. Please buy some when you visit Tohoku in the future!

 

Yummy Yamagata Omiyage Snack Box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

JAPAN RAIL CLUB is proud to present an exciting ensemble of snacks from Yamagata Prefecture in June 2024’s Omiyage Snack Box “Yummy Yamagata”. Look forward to tasting Sakata Beika’s “Oranda Senbei Grilled Corn” and “PARIPARI×SAKUSAKU Dondonyaki” as featured in this article! Subscribe by 30 June 2024 to try these Yamagata-exclusive treats—you’ll be in for a Yummy Yamagata time!