momofuku ando continued…was the inventor of instant ramen chinese or japanese?

There’s been a flurry of comments (well, a handful anyway) posted about the late Momofuku Ando ???? and his racial background. One of our readers “Z.A.” took me to task for referring to Mr. Ando as a Chinese person, and the New York Times also claims that Mr. Ando’s parents were Japanese, while Danny Bloome of Japundit and the Los Angeles Times make a case for Ando-san being Taiwanese. Taiwanese news sources also claim that Mr. Ando’s parents are Taiwanese, not Japanese.

Also, one thing I neglected to mention in my original post was that Mr. Ando’s name at birth was Wu Bai Fu ???.

At this point, I’m more inclined to believe that Mr. Ando is in fact Taiwanese. While I personally don’t think Mr. Ando’s actual ancestry makes any difference to his contributions to the world, I’m certainly curious to find out the facts. Does anyone have anything definitive about Mr. Ando’s ethnicity?

  5 comments for “momofuku ando continued…was the inventor of instant ramen chinese or japanese?

  1. 1/21/2007 at 4:05 pm

    Ando-san, or should i say, Mr. Wu, was in fact Taiwanese. Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean immigrants to Japan (and their ethnic descendants) often adopt Japanese names to “hide” their ethnicity for fear of discrimination. This is a practice that continues to this day, and it might even be required by law.

  2. 1/21/2007 at 4:30 pm

    i just read that new york times bit about ando being the son of japanese parents who had moved to taiwan. that sounds like a bit of spin to me… i can’t really see japanese people moving to a territory under japan’s rule (like taiwan back in the day) and adopting a chinese surname just for the heck of it. on the other hand i can definitely see immigrants to japan being forced/pressured to assmilate like the borg.

  3. danny bee
    1/21/2007 at 8:05 pm

    NY TIMES ERROR: “Born on March 5, 1910, in Taiwan while it was under Japanese occupation, Mr. Ando was a son of Japanese parents who had moved there from Osaka. When he was 23, he returned to Japan and, while a student at Ritsumeikan University, ran several clothing companies. In 1948, he started a company that produced salt; it changed its name to Nissin 10 years later. He is survived by his wife, Masako, two sons and a daughter.”

    Wow, the New York Times reporter Dennis Hevesi made a huge mistake there. He took the official line of deceit from the Nissian Food Company PR department in Japan, which has told all the intl media that Mr Ando was of Japanese ancestory, it is a pure big lie. For some reason, this is the PR line coming from Nissin PR people in Japan, they also told TIME magazine the same BS. Not true. I plan to email Mr Hevesi and ask him to make a correction in print. I also asked TIME to correct its error. Mr Ando, look at his face, please, was 1000000% of Chinese ancestry, born in Taiwan of two Chinese parents, they died, raised by Chinese grandparents in Taiwan, then at 23, went to Japan FOR THE FIRST TIME to study at college and stayed. He only got Japanese citizenship in 1948, since he was NOT a Japanese citizen prior to that. Look it up, Nissian PR people! Wow, even the NYTimes got taken in by this PR cover up. Time to email!

  4. danny bee
    1/21/2007 at 8:42 pm

    When the inventor of instant noodles Momofuku Ando died recently in
    Japan at the age of 96, his obituary became international news, with
    over 500 newspapers and magazines noting his death and describing his
    colorful (and tasty) life. But one detail that many reporters in Japan
    and overseas left out of Ando’s life story is that he was born in
    Taiwan of ethnically-Chinese parents and first set foot in Japan when
    he was 23 years old.

    When a reporter for TIME magazine wrote that Ando “returned” to Japan
    in 1933 to study at a university there, she used the wrong word. Ando
    did not “return” to Japan at the age of 23, since that was the first
    time he ever travelled to that country. In addition, the New York
    Times, in its official obituary of Ando which was reprinted in several
    newspapers around the world and remains online, wrote that
    “Ando was a son of Japanese parents who had moved there from Osaka,”
    adding that “when he was 23, he returned to Japan.”

    The New York Times needs to correct its online website to reflect that
    fact that Ando’s parents were not Japanese at all. They were both
    ethnic Chinese people born in Taiwan. Furthermore, Ando did not
    “return” to Japan when he was 23, as the New York Times reported,
    since his trip to Japan in 1933 marked his first visit to that island
    nation.

    In fact, most of the international coverage of Ando’s life and death
    implied that he was Japanese and that his iconic invention was a
    Japanese one. Well, to be fair, Ando, whose birth name in Taiwan was
    Wu Bai-fu, did become a Japanese citizen in 1948, at the age of 38 and
    he did live there for the rest of his life. However, the Chiayi County
    native spent the formative years of his life in a small town in
    southern Taiwan, as most Chinese-language newspapers in Taiwan noted
    recently when the famous man passed away.

    Blogs and ramen-themed websites on the Internet were filled with news
    and insigts about Ando and his popular invention, but few bloggers or
    reporters outside Taiwan bothered to note that Ando was originally
    from Taiwan and did not became a Japanese citizen until he was 38.
    Part of the problem in reporting Ando’s life stems from his own
    attempts to downplay his roots in Taiwan, according to sources, and
    even Nissin Food Company in Japan downplays (or completely ignores)
    this fact.

    When a reporter in Asia asked the Nissin public relations department
    for some biographical information about Ando’s early life, the
    reporter was informed that Ando was a Japanese who was born in Taiwan
    but who “returned” to Japan in 1933. This is patently false, as the
    world knows now.

    Even the name of Ando’s company, Nissin, is composed of two Chinese
    characters that pay homage to the two sides of his life. The first
    character “ni” stands for Japan, while the second character “chin”
    stands for the Chin Dynasty in which Wu Bai-fu was born in 1910. The
    very name of his firm is therefore proof that he knew who he was, even
    if the world has been slow to find out the truth about his life.

    Because of Taiwan’s isolation in the interational community, the
    international media often belittles or ignores this country’s real
    history and achievements, not to mention its native sons and daughters
    who make names for themselves in other countries. But had Ando been
    born in Beijing or Shanghai, one can be sure that the recent headlines
    around the world would have read “Chinese inventor of Cup Noodle dies
    at 96.”

    Why can’t the world ever get things right when it comes to reporting
    about Taiwan and its native sons? Momofuku Ando, a.k.a. Wu Bai-fu, was
    born and bred in LiuJao Village in Chiayi County when Taiwan was under
    the control of Japan. Both his parents were Taiwanese. The record
    needs to be set straight. How about it, New York Times?

  5. 2/6/2007 at 8:55 am

    I’m actually pretty surprised about this.
    Learn something new every day (I was looking up instant ramen ratings because I want to buy something new at the asian grocery store…stupid sidetracking.)

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