The Norwich businessman who became a star in Japan
PUBLISHED: 17:20 26 June 2013 | UPDATED: 17:23 26 June 2013
Archant © 2013
Tucked away in a quiet section overgrown with weeds and reeds at the back of a Norwich cemetery, few would know that the grave of Frederick Ringer bears an Englishman who became famous in Japan.
But to residents of the Japanese city Nagasaki, the name of Norwich man Mr Ringer is well known for the businesses he started, some of which are still thriving today, while the Ringer Hut restaurant chain, which has branches in a number of countries, including the US, was named after him.
And on Tuesday, a delegation from Japan, including the chairman of the Ringer Hut chain, came over to see the grave at the Rosary cemetery, along with a Nagasaki TV company which was filming the visit.
The delegation included Kazuhide Yonehama, the chairman of Ringer Hut and Kazuhiro Takemoto, the representative director of Holme Ringer and Co, which was set up by Mr Ringer and fellow Englishman Edward Holme in 1868 initially to trade tea before expanding to include shipping.
They were joined by Mari Deguchi, whose father had worked for Holme Ringer.
Mr Yonehama said the visit was a chance for the visitors to pay their respects to Mr Ringer, who was born in Norwich in 1838, who is especially well known in the Nagasaki area.
He said his chain had 650 restaurants worldwide, which specialise in the Nagasaki dishes Champon and Sara Udon, including in Taiwan, Thailand and the USA.
He added: “We are aware of the fact that 150 years ago Frederick Ringer came all the way from Norwich to live in Japan and made a great success of it, so we really admire his courage and we admire the way he made such a success of his company that we wanted to take his name and use it in our chain of restaurants.”
Entrepreneur Mr Ringer, who died in 1907, took over as leader of the Nagasaki foreign settlement from Scotsman Thomas Glover and made a number of contributions to promoting trade and industry in Nagasaki.
He had a fishing fleet and started the English language newspaper the Nagasaki Press, as well as setting up a hotel and trading tea and tobacco with England using clipper ships and with Russia via camel train.
He also helped set up the first mechanised flour mill and petroleum storage facility, while he also welcomed US president Ulysses S Grant to Nagasaki as a member of the city’s municipal council. He was also consul to Belgium and acting consul to Hawaii and Denmark.
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