June 11, 2007

Japanese owner, Nepalese staffs, Indian restaurant

In Kasugai, the city where I live, there are many Indian restaurants. One of them is Chandani (チャンダニ) . I have been there too many times as it is very near. More than that, all the staffs are Nepalese and they are very friendly and helpful. When I first came here as a student and had financial difficulties or language problems, they were always eager to help.

But I have never seen the owner, the Japanese old man. They say he comes very few, like once a month. You can't see any Indians. Even the greenish decoration in front reminds you of Pakistan, not India.

Although you can see some Indians running or working in Indian restaurants in Japan, majority are Nepalese. Normally, it is like in Chandani. Owner is Japanese, staffs are Nepalese and the name is '----Indian restaurant'.

Many Nepalese have started their own restaurants. But still, they go by '---Indian Restaurant' name and not by '----Nepalese Restuarant'. Even if they add 'Nepalese', it is like '----Indian Restaurant: Authentic Indian and Nepalese food'. It is hard to come out of Indian shadow as more people know about India than Nepal. I have talked with some of these enterpreneurs and they say that it is hard to sell 'Nepal only' brand.

The problem with our 'Nepal only' brand is that we try to sell the same naan-curry-chicken tikka in the name of Nepalese food. We haven't tried much to popularize our own ethnic food. Some people are trying to do it in Tokyo but for most of the Japanese people in cities like Nagoya or this small Kasugai, Nepal means India and India means naan-curry-chicken tikka. I am a big fan of Newari food. Arguably, it may be one of the best foods in the World. We need a campaign to promote this. Once we establish this in Japanese market, we will not have any 'culinary identity crisis'.

Not only enterpreneurs, responsible persons in our embassy itself and all of us should be active in such matters.

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