Now Reports

Wayne Macpherson

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Wayne Macpherson
Hometown: Palmerston North, New Zealand
In Japan: 22 years
Identity: Lecturer and Chief Bottle Washer at Pirisko

Having studied business to doctorate level, and currently teaching future CEOs at Fukuoka universities, it’s not surprising that the enterprising Wayne Macpherson spotted a gap in the market for a tasty, locally produced hot sauce. After experimenting in his Nishijin kitchen, he started giving his spicy apple-based creation to family and friends and has since been so inundated with requests for jars that he now sells it online. The original recipe, and Wayne’s favorite, is called Pirisko (from Japanese ‘sukoshi piri’ – a little spicy). He also makes Pirisko Hot (twice the spice) and Pirisgo (‘sugoi’ – five times as hot). He makes sure his children are in bed and holds his breath before opening the jar of ‘dangerous’ Indian Bhut Jolokia chilli which he uses to give the sauce its kick. It also contains a hint of sake – Wayne loves going out to his favorite grilled meat restaurant in Nishijin Shotengai or oyster huts in Momochi, and always takes his sauce with him. Official website:

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Hi Wayne. What first brought you to Japan?
I’d just graduated with a business degree from New Zealand back in the 90s, when the theme of the day was Japan. I did a ski season in Nagano and came to Miyazaki on a company trip. I moved there for two years, surfing, doing some kendo and cooking. I learnt some Japanese, but decided to enroll in a language school in Fukuoka for another year. I then decided to stay for four more years to do a postgraduate research degree at Kyushu Sangyo University. I graduated in 1998 and have been here ever since.

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How did the idea for your sauce come about?
When there weren’t as many foreigners in Japan, we were here, but not our world. We survived the best we could as far as Western food was concerned. The only real sauce you could find was Tabasco, but as I got more into the Japanese food culture, it became too salty, vinegary, and runny. There were a few others, but they weren’t great either, so I decided to make my own.

How did the project develop?
I started experimenting with different methods and recipes, which was fun, but nothing was quite right – the sauce was still too watery. On a camping trip to Keya Beach in Itoshima, my friend Chris, who is a very good cook, suggested that it needed a good base. I tried radish and carrots, which were a little plain, and papaya and pineapple, which were quite costly, but finally decided on apple. The apples are the Fuji Sun variety from northern Japan, which are personally selected by myself.

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You started making the sauce for fun, but how did it turn into a business?
At first my wife and I would take it as a present when we went to someone’s place, or to visit family in Osaka. Our kids go to kindergarten, ballet and art classes near where we live in Nishijin, so we gave a few away to other parents, but then word got round and we were swamped for requests! People offered to pay for it, and as we were selling it, we thought we should turn it into more of a product, including marketing, labeling and food safety measures. The gold lid is a little bit special, and a jar is classier than a squeezy bottle! I think the bright red color seems a bit Korean, too.

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But Japanese food isn’t as spicy as Korean food – how have people responded to the heat of the sauce?
Spicy food can be quite popular here. I have heard about some people who are addicted to my sauce, and have it with almost every meal – they say it’s not hot enough! Yuzu is quite hot, but it’s quite summery and I wouldn’t put it on a pizza, whereas my sauce really does go with everything.

In your opinion, what are the best dishes to eat it with?
I often make Hawaiian pizza and put Pirisko on top of my wife’s delicious tomato sauce. It goes with things you wouldn’t expect, like curry, gyoza, natto, or even ramen. It’s spicier than Japanese curry, which has an apple base too, so you can have it on the side and tune the amount of heat. The apple gives it a little sweetness, which goes with everything as well, as Japanese food is already a little bit sweet.

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Do you make every batch yourself?
Yes – as it is a small business, I can legally make it at home. Soy sauce has to be made in a special factory, but my sauce is actually categorized as a jam because of the fruit content. I usually make about three to five kilograms in one pot, depending on demand and holiday seasons. I probably make about two or three lots a month.

What’s the shelf life?
Legally, 90 days, but it’ll be gone by then anyway! I’ve got some at home that’s two years old, and it’s still good. Salt, sugar and vinegar are all preservatives anyway, and we boil everything up so it’s sterile.



There’s a touch of sake in the sauce. Do you like going out in Japan?
I love it! Japanese food is amazing. I’d say it’s the best in the world – not just because of the taste, but also its presentation, nutritional value, and the fact that it changes seasonally too, from summer BBQ to winter nabe. In New Zealand, a winter meal is meat and three veggies, and summer is similar but with salad. We’re not that into spicy food either.

What are your favorite places to eat in Fukuoka?
There’s a very good place in Nishijin Shotengai called Benkyoya no nikurui which is all meat. It’s run by an old Nishijin family and the first floor is still a butcher’s, with great Japanese beef. There’s shabu shabu on the second floor, motsunabe on the third floor, and yakiniku on the first floor. I bring my sauce with me, of course – I take it everywhere! I went to an oyster hut in Momochi a few weeks ago with it too.

What role does the sauce play in your daily life?
I’m always thinking about it and I eat it twice a day with lunch and dinner. I like the original recipe, but my wife and her family only eat the hot one. There’s a constant stream of orders – my wife picks them up all the time from friends in the community and I try to get all online ones out within 24 hours.

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What’s the next step for Pirisko?
Collaborating with restaurants would be the next step, but for now the business is just growing slowly and steadily. This is a true Fukuoka product, so we would like to get the city involved and go to food fairs. It’s a home kitchen hobby at this stage, but I think it has potential. It could be huge! If I had a twin, they could work on it full time. I’ve just finished my doctorate, so I think I’d like to go in the direction of teaching, research and publishing. I’d like to do both, though – 100% on each one!

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Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn185, Jun. 2014)
Interview by Katie Forster for Fukuoka Now.

Fukuoka City
Published: May 28, 2014 / Last Updated: Jun 13, 2017

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