I’m sure everyone has some kind of media that they greatly like, and are able to consume over and over again, be it a movie, song, play, etc.
But not many can say that they’re heavily invested in something to the point of opening a business in tribute to it.
Initial D is a Japanese comic series featuring Takumi Fujiwara, a young man who street races with a modified AE86, while moonlighting as a delivery driver for his father’s tofu shop. Hence, the blend of the store’s three main elements—manga, cars, and tofu.
A passion for manga and cars
Founded by three friends, Mr Chan, Mr Wong, and Mr Lim, Fujiwara Tofu Shop Malaysia was started with the intention of commemorating the iconic shop that appeared in the INITIAL D story.
This is evident from the two white Trueno AE86s included in its decor, one at the side of the shop and another smack in the middle of the restaurant.
As if that’s not enough, the founders also committed to the theme by basing its design on the shop shown in INITIAL D’s live-action movie.
Oh, and there’s also a life-size figure of the story’s protagonist, Takumi Fujiwara. Talk about passion!
Speaking candidly to Vulcan Post, the founders shared that the idea came about in mid-2019, during a casual meet-up between car enthusiasts.
“Since we have the cars (we all individually own a Toyota AE86), we have the passion, and we have the capability, why not start Fujiwara Tofu Shop?”
Coincidentally, there was a shop available for rent at the time situated in a corner lot. With its facade reminding them of the actual Fujiwara Tofu Shop in Shibukawa City, Japan (which was used in the live-action movie), they figured it was fate.
What solidified their resolve was also the fact that the original Japanese shop had closed down back in 2009 after its owner passed and the shop made way for new area development.
“So, to commemorate the place and pay tribute to that iconic shop that once inspired us all, we created Fujiwara Tofu Shop Malaysia,” they explained.
“With this great and humble intention for the global car community, it didn’t take long to convince the few of us to partake in this project.”
It’s one way to gain public attention
The idea was to create a replica of the INITIAL D live-action movie’s tofu shop as it would attract their target audience.
“We really want to pay tribute to the one in Japan, and put a lot of effort and attention to details to the exterior and interior of our shop, which we believe contributed to the marketability and visibility to the public,” they explained.
In typical human curiosity, rare and unique shops are the easiest way to attract people. Even if you don’t quite understand the AE86 convertible or its homage, you’d still notice the store enough to check it out.
The shop being nestled amongst car workshops in the PJ area also lends more to its peculiarity. So much so that there had been customers who assumed it was a tofu-making factory.
“We don’t blame them because our signboard said so, and the shop is situated in an industrial area. But once we explained to them, they understood our passion and the effort we put into achieving our little dream.”
Initially, it was built for their community to meet up and talk about their shared interests, such as cars and INITIAL D. That’s one of the reasons the trio decided to include the F&B aspect in their venture.
“There’s always food and drink involved in any car gathering. We get hungry and thirsty after those lengthy car chats. It’s Malaysia we’re talking about,” they quipped.
But over time, the restaurant’s demographic shifted as it started gaining traction.
Now, neighbourhood families, lovers of Japan, cafe hoppers, and people interested in Instagrammable spots also visit the restaurant. They’ve even entertained international visitors from as far as Poland.
“We have both customers who go for the theme and its menu offerings,” they said, expressing gratitude to those who have shared news of the shop with others too.
Dishing out Japanese food and games
Staying true to its Japanese and INITIAL D theme, customers can find an assortment of food options at Fujiwara Tofu Shop Malaysia.
This includes the brand’s ajitama pasta, chicken katsu curry rice, signature black and seafood tofu, tofufah, and signature tofu cheesecake.
There’s also homemade soymilk to quench your thirst in the hot Malaysian weather.
All of the menu items are made in-house by co-founder Mr Wong, whose full-time career is as a yacht solo chef.
“Not to forget, Tofu Shop Malaysia is a pork-free restaurant using halal ingredients. We welcome everyone of all ages, races, and religions,” the founders stated.
Aside from meetings and dine-ins, patrons who are looking for a fun time have the opportunity to play the INITIAL D Arcade Stage (version three). The shop has two of these iconic arcade machines which charge customers RM2 per game.
Though they don’t bring in much income for the store, they sufficiently cover the cost of the maintenance service. “These old school arcade machines break down easily due to their old age,” the founders explained.
All for one and one for all
While checking out the brand’s online presence, you might find a few other shops with similar names in Malaysia. At Old Klang Road, there’s Fujiwara Yakitori Bar and in Ipoh, there’s Fujiwara Tofa Shop.
Curious, we asked the founders if they have more than one outlet. “We have customers coming in asking the same question,” they remarked. The truth is that none of them are related to each other. But the owners are acquainted and actually support one another’s venture.
“Although the concept is similar, each tofu shop has its own charm and appeal which INITIAL D fans would find interesting to explore.”
“We always encourage them to also try the other tofu shops around as they serve different meals and dishes. Likewise, the other tofu shops do the same for us.”
On that note, they also shared that the team plans to expand and open the biggest Fujiwara Tofu Shop in Southeast Asia. It’ll be a place where large events can take place and more people can enjoy their offerings.
“Who knows, one day in the near future, we can actually have the author of INITIAL D (Shigeno Shuichi), Drift King (Tsuchiya Keiichi), or other celebrity figures to come and enjoy what we have built in Malaysia.”
Seeing as the founders all have day jobs (Mr Chan is a car sales business owner while Mr Lim is an IT engineer), this dream might take some time to realise.
But if one thing’s for sure, it’s that they are determined entrepreneurs driven by their shared love for INITIAL D.
Featured Image Credit: Fujiwara Tofu Shop Malaysia