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Jakarta Post

Rustono Tempeh: conquering four seasons

Mon, July 3, 2017   /   11:45 am
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    To get the best tempeh, Rustono boils the soy beans all night. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    The fermentation process of tempeh needs special treatment every hour. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono drives his car in the middle of the night during winter to check the tempeh fermentation process. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Using a special box, Rustono personally delivers his tempeh by taking a Shinkanzen train to keep his commitment to his clients. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono carries his canoe to the Biwako Lake near his house. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono is paddling his canoe at the Biwako Lake. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono welds an iron to build his new factory. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono also works in building his new factory. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    Rustono works to channel clean waters from the mountain for his new factory needs. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

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    In his spare time, Rustono plays his saxophone at his new factory's backyard. JP/Tarko Sudiarno

Making tempeh in Indonesia, which is a tropical country, is very easy as we have lots of tempeh makers who supply their products to traditional markets and supermarkets.

However, making tempeh in a subtropical country like Japan is another challenge.

Rustono, a 48-year-old Indonesian who has lived in Japan since 1997, has been producing tempeh for 20 years. Every week, the Yogyakartan native produces around 4,000 cakes of tempeh, each is weighed 300 grams.

“For the time being, we can only produce 4,000 tempeh in our old factory. And it’s always sold out. We are building a bigger factory so we can produce more,” he said early December 2016 in his factory in a small village called Shiga, Japan.

It took years and hard works for Rustono to finally be able to produce tempeh. He faced natural challenges of the weather which may hinder the fermentation process. He needed to go back and forth from his house to his factory, which is about 30-minute drive, back and forth.

Whenever he fails to delivers his tempeh to his customers in Tokyo, he will personally take them. “I have to take Shinkanzen (bullet train) to deliver my tempeh from Kyoto to Tokyo. The Shinkanzen ticket price is surely more expensive than the tempeh but it’s my commitment to my customers,” he said.

His wife, Tsuruko Kuzumoto, whom he married in 1985, has always supported Rustono’s hard works.
“I have a dream. I want to introduce and popularize Indonesian tempeh in Japan and dominate the market here. Now, I have built factories in six countries,” he proudly said.
Despite his tight schedule, Rustono still finds spare time for himself to play saxophone or canoeing in Biwako Lake. “We must have a balanced life, so we can live happily,” he said while driving his Mercedes-Benz along the Kyoto streets on a winter day. [yan]