Who is Okei-san?

Kei Oura, aka, Okei-san, was the first trader who exported Japanese green tea to the world. Okei-san was born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1828. Her family had been set up as an oil merchant since the 17th century. However, after a catastrophic fire occurred, her family lost their fortune. She explored all business opportunities and finally found the potential in Japanese tea export business.

Okei-san asked a Dutch merchant of the Textor & Company to help her take samples of Japanese tea overseas. It was in 1853 and was about six years before Japan limitedly opened its door to the world, with Nagasaki being one of five ports. In 1856, Mr. Olt William, an English merchant came to Nagasaki and ordered six tons of Japanese green tea. To fulfil the order, she visited a number of tea farms in Kyushu district, a southern island of Japan. This was the beginning of Japanese tea export’s boom.

Her success on tea export business contributed to the whole Japanese export industry. Japanese green tea became one of main export products following silk.