You probably take it for granted while dining on sushi or dumplings, but that iconic Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser has been in production since 1961. And as the New York Times discovered, it was actually developed by a Japanese Navy sailor who dedicated his life to design when he left the service.
As the story goes, Kenji Ekuan’s younger sister was killed by the Hiroshima atomic blast, while radiation sickness took his father’s life a year later. And after seeing the devastation left by the bomb while riding the train home one day, he decided to dedicate his life to making and designing things. Over his 60 year career he was responsible for many recognizable designs, but none more ubiquitous or iconic than the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.
Its unique shape took three years and over a hundred prototypes to perfect, but the teardrop design and dripless spout have become a staple of restaurant condiments all around the world. Over 300 million of the bottles have been sold since the design was first introduced, and besides the occasional special edition versions to commemorate anniversaries and other occasions, the bottle’s design hasn’t changed over the past 50 years. So the next time you’re drowning a California roll, stop and remember that you’re also enjoying a piece of history with your meal.