Portugal In joins forces with Japanese Embassy in Lisbon

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Afuri chooses Lisbon for its European rollout in €1 million investment.

A popular upmarket Japanese restaurant chain has chosen Lisbon to test the market for its eventual European expansion plans.

It is one of the latest direct foreign investment success stories in Portugal and forms part of an initiative between the Japanese Embassy’s commercial and investment department and the Portuguese government’s Portugal In programme.

The decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in the referendum of June 2016 created specific challenges which needed to be addressed by the remaining members of the EU states.

The Government of Portugal has created Portugal In as a temporary task force to attract even more investment in the wake of Brexit.

Portugal In has the following purposes: working together with industry across the country to work on attracting FDI, promoting and boosting Portugal’s unique selling points and selling them as competitive elements to attract FDI, identifying and monitoring FDI opportunities with different government bodies already operating in Portugal in this field, identifying barriers and constraints facing FDI projects in Portugal and coming up with legislative solutions to overcome such constraints among others.

Afuri, which started in Japan in 1995 by Hiroto Nakamura and opened eateries in the United States, opened its first European restaurant in Lisbon’s Chiado area in the summer. It also is eyeing Porto.

Located in Rua Paiva de Andrada near the opera theatre of São Carlos, the restaurant occupies a 160 m2 space with 46 dining places.

“It was quite a job to transform the pre-existing space” admits Tiago Pimental, Afuri’s general manager adding that they were not allowed to significantly alter the walls or the ceilings.

The restaurant’s speciality is Ramen, a Japanese dish consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish both, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso and using toppings such as sliced pork (chãshu), dried seaweed (norí) and geen onions and ginger (negí).

Taichi Ishizuki (CEO) opened the eatery with other partners while the authentic traditional recipes are from Portuguese executive chef Bernardo Nabais.

“If we look back at the historic relationship between Portugal and Japan over centuries, Portugal was the first country to open Japan up to international cultures so it made sense for us to open our first restaurant in Europe here,” says Taichi Ishizuki who is also a sake sommelier.

English businesswoman and hotel and resort owner Chitra Stern tells Essential: “Last year I was invited to join the special task force called ‘Portugal In’ that was set up by the Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa to help attract even more foreign direct investment into Portugal especially in the wake of Brexit.

“It is a temporary task-force created to attract even more foreign direct investment (FDI) in the wake of Brexit,” says Chitra Stern who owns the Martinhal Family Hotels and Resorts with husband Roman Stern.

The mission ends at the end of 2019 and Portugal In is involved in working with countries and companies to increase investment into Portugal.

“We work closely together with the Embassy of Japan, AICEP (Portuguese overseas trade and investment organisation) and the ministries of the Economy and Tourism here to help raise awareness of the incentives that exist in Portugal.

Chitra says Portugal In is a small team working hard to remove barriers to investment and our technical team has been working very closely with SEF (the Portuguese immigration office) to help digitalise the process and clear the backlog and coming up with procedures that have helped SEF immensely” she says.

Portugal In has also been working closely with the Bank of Portugal and CMVM (Securities and Markets Commission) to simplify the processes of asset management companies to register in Portugal.

“We have been working closely with Sadayoshi Takagawa, Advisory-Minister from the Japanese Embassy where we were warmly received by the new Japanese ambassador to see how we can attract Japanese investment into Portugal.

“This restaurant is a very exciting example of Japanese investment and one close to my heart as I and my family just love Ramen cuisine.”