Who is “The Cheese Guy?”
My name is John Davis. I was born in England and have lived in Japan continuously since 1976. There is nothing really remarkable about this. I came to Japan out of curiosity, knowing very little about it, liked it and stayed. The reason I have been here all this time is that I just didn’t go anywhere else.
As soon as I arrived, I fell in love with the Japanese cuisine. I found a rich world of food that I hadn’t known existed. I loved it all.
But there was one thing I missed.
There was no cheese here. When I came to Japan, there was only processed cheese. It was OK, but, as a gourmet delight, it was on a par with Instant Noodles. Then, one day, on my birthday, I was given a can of Camembert. I was so excited. I opened the can and put it on a plate so that it would warm up and begin to melt. I opened a bottle of wine in readiness. One hour later, two hours later, the Camembert was still like a brick. Solid.
Out of curiosity, I took a look at the box. It said, in English, German, French and Italian, “Do not freeze!” In Japanese, it said, “Please keep in the freezer!”
The cheese had died. Bereft of life, it was no longer cheese. It had passed on.
Every time I went abroad, I brought back a suitcase full of cheese. I even made friends with US military guys who signed me on base to buy cheese at the store there. But then the rules became more strict and this was no longer an option.
I made Tofuyo. It was good, but it still wasn’t cheese.
Then I remembered helping my mother make cheese as a child and decided to see if I could revive the skills. Getting hold of the ingredients in Japan was difficult, but I managed it. The first few attempts were surprisingly good. I was encouraged.
I made more. I found a way to get the ingredients. Friends started to ask for cheese. And so, I thought, “I wonder if I could do this as a business?”
The mother of one of my students very kindly let me use a room in her building in Yogi. I converted this into a miniature cheese factory, called in the Health Inspectors and started making cheese in earnest.
My purpose was twofold: a) to find out if anyone else apart from me would like my cheese and b) to find out if it would sell.
Well, sell it did. And very shortly I had sold out.
So I realised that I would have to think bigger.
I had been using supermarket milk, but my dream was to make cheese with real, pure, full cream milk, straight from the dairy. Luckily a good friend introduced me to a relative of his in Ozato. He had 130 Holsteins and wanted to make cheese, but didn’t know how to. Well, I knew how to and we decided to join forces.
And so, thanks to the hard work and creative thinking of Mr Sekine, the builder and Mr Higa, the electrician, and the delicious, full cream, EM milk generously supplied by Mr Oyadomari’s cows, we now have a fully equipped cheese factory on the Oyadomari Bokujo in Ozato, Nanjo shi.