[From April Issue 2012]
Mino Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA)
“Team Shikamo,” a group of non-Japanese residents in the north of Osaka, are serving up the home cooking of their native countries at an event called “Sekai wo Tsumamigui (Taking a Bite out of the World) One Day Café.” Held every fourth Saturday at a café in Minoh City, Osaka, the event is becoming popular with local residents who have become regular customers.
This event was organized by the Minoh Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA). Secretariat of the association, IWAKI Asuka says, “Approximately two percent of our city’s population is non-Japanese. But there are not many opportunities for them to gather together, or to have more meaningful interactions with Japanese people. Since food is universally appreciated, we thought it might serve as common ground.”
At meetings the menu is chosen. Food tasting and preparation all takes time, but non-Japanese members are in charge of all these activities. One of the Japanese volunteers, AKARI Kaeko says, “I help with the preparation, which includes chopping up the ingredients. Every time I participate, it is very interesting to me to see how each country uses ingredients and in what combinations.”
Staff member HINO Miyako always speaks to the non-Japanese participants in easy to understand Japanese. To help non-Japanese participants understand the language and customs of Japan, conversation at the event takes place in Japanese. At the last event, Victoria and Natalia, both from Russia, prepared borscht for 40 people. Smiling, they commented, “It was the first time, so we were anxious before we did it. We were rushed off our feet serving so many people, but it was very exciting.”
TOUDOU Marina, who participates in the events as a member of staff, is from Slovenia. Before getting married to a Japanese man and coming to Japan in 2004, she had gained a lot of experience working as a nurse in her home country. “There aren’t many places where non-Japanese housewives can gather and the range of activities available is also limited. By getting together with people in similar circumstances, we can share our troubles and let off some steam,” says Toudou.
Before being appointed as the secretariat, Iwaki was the manager of a Japanese deli. Even though the café is only open one day a month, she believes she’s doing important work. “We keep the prices affordable, but ask that customers rather than volunteers foot the bill, so that we are able to pay our chefs. I believe that this is the way to gain independence, not by depending on the charity of others,” she continues.
Minoh City is planning to set up the Multicultural Exchange Center (provisional title) in 2013. In the future the team aims to run this enterprise as a business using the center’s café area. “It would make me very happy if other local communities took our lead, putting Japanese and non-Japanese citizens on an equal footing.” The team members continue to keep themselves busy day after day in order to realize this dream.
Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko