ATAGO Co., Ltd.
President Hideyuki Amamiya
ATAGO is a proven brand from Japan with more than 70 years of history in refractometer technology. The company has gained 80% of domestic market share, and 30% of foreign market share. ATAGO is trusted by users in more than 154 countries.
Hand-Held Refractometer, MASTER series
In 1940, the founder of ATAGO Co., Ltd., Kiheiji Amamiya, began manufacturing measurement instruments including refractometers in the Toshima ward, Tokyo. In 1953, the unique “Hand-Held Refractometer” was developed. This product was a predecessor of the current flagship product (Photo). In 1975, the corporate name was changed to "ATAGO CO., LTD.", and a headquarters was built in Itabashi ward, Tokyo. Since then, the company has remained the world leader in refractometer technology.
ATAGO has now gained 80% of the domestic market share, and 30% of the foreign market share. The company was selected as one of the "Global Niche Top Companies Selection 100” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2014. It has been growing both in name and in reality. We interviewed the company’s president, Hideyuki Amamiya.
“When a straw is inserted into a glass of water, the straw appears bent. This phenomenon is known as the principle of “light refraction”. Refractometers are measurement instruments that apply this phenomenon to measure concentrations of dissolved solids in liquid.
By measuring the degree of refraction, the refractometer defines concentrations of dissolved sugar, salt, acid, proteins, etc.
Digital Hand-held "Pocket" Refractometer
There are a variety of uses for refractometers. Some 70% of the products are used in relation to beverages and food. They are also applicable in various areas such as petrochemistry, metalworking, and clinical uses. They address all kinds of needs including fraudulent kerosene inspection, imported goods inspection, doping tests, and heat stroke countermeasures.
The refractometers, originally created as analog optical instruments, have now evolved into digital instruments with electronics in addition to their precise mechanisms.
The Digital Hand-held "Pocket" Refractometer PAL series (Photo) instantly displays results digitally by putting a sample drop in the center of the round feature and pushing the start button.
“Our current refractometer lineup has been developed in response to customers’ needs, such as a desire for directly reading concentration, and the need for a portable machine to take anywhere, anytime.”
In addition to the superior functionality, the sanitary design enables the entire instrument to be washable. The products have user-friendly and beautiful shapes based on ergonomics. The company believes that such rounded form is unique to Japanese craftsmanship. The PAL was awarded the Good Design Award in 2003, and the MASTER (Photo above) was also awarded in 2006.
Quality control of papayas by PAL (Ghana)
ATAGO’s refractometers are used in more than 154 countries, and the users include the prestigious French cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, papaya farms in Ghana, noodle shops in Singapore, beverage manufacturers in India, and fish boats in Mauritania. 80% of all products are sold overseas directly from ATAGO without using a trading company. It is one of the company’s strengths.
“We receive orders directly from overseas. Each sales representative for the foreign countries has his/her own territories, such as East Asia, Western Europe, or Eastern Europe, and does everything from selling our products to setting campaigns in a proper manner in each country.
As the economy of each country develops, food safety and product quality will draw attention. Quality control is also necessary for exports. Under such circumstances, ATAGO’s refractometers are attracting new needs as devices to quantify safety.
Although the ATAGO product lineup is vast, the simplest product has only two buttons. It is so easy to use that it does not even require an instruction manual, and this is also optimal for popularization overseas. Such handiness is surely one of their characteristics; however, ATAGO invites staff members from maintenance centers worldwide every month, and provides two-week training sessions in order for them to accurately understand the principles of the precision apparatus. This is a unique initiative of ATAGO, which focuses on consolidating its support system.
ATAGO office at the top floor of the building
ATAGO headquarters is located across from a symbolic landmark of Tokyo: the prominent Tokyo Tower, with the stately Zojoji Temple at its foot.
In 2012, the headquarters was relocated to Shiba Koen in Minato ward, Tokyo. The company had operated in Itabashi ward for many years, but decided to move due to concerns about the quake resistance of the previous company building. Before deciding on this office, the president himself visited many locations in Tokyo in search of a new office, in consideration of every employee’s access to the office.
The new location has easy access to the subway, is near Haneda Airport, and is also adjacent to an exit of the Shuto Expressway. It is advantageous to have speedy communications with clients, which are mostly in Tokyo, and with parts suppliers, which are also located in the Minato ward. It is an optimum location for ATAGO that operates a wide domestic and foreign business. The employees also love the new location.
“We can enjoy views of Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple, as well as the Shuto Expressway, Tokyo Bay, and even Mt. Fuji. When clients from overseas visit here, they gasp.”
Amid views of the swelling energy of the Tokyo metropolis, the challenges for ATAGO, including development of new overseas markets and new fields, will never end.