Ari Miyake, a housewife who immigrated from Japan with her husband and son four years ago, says the scarcity of non-vegetarian food is the most difficult aspect of living in Ahmedabad, her second home.
Ari, a part of the lone Japanese family that stayed in Ahmedabad during the Covid-19 pandemic, was one of eight Japanese families who attended a cultural evening Thursday at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA). Ari, dressed in a kimono, greeted Indians with a “kem cho” (Gujarati for “how are you?”) and said,“I came to Ahmedabad with my husband who worked with Suzuki Corporation. I have been living on Iskon-Ambli-Bopal road since 2018. I did not leave the city even during Covid (lockdown).”
“We are not vegetarians and so, it is difficult to get sea-food, chicken, squid, etc. Managing non-vegetarian food is the toughest,” said Ari, flanked by her 12-year-old son who studies at a local private school and her husband Kenzo Miyake, a senior advisor-HR and administration at Mandal-based TDS Lithium-Ion Battery Gujarat Pvt Ltd.
“My family was here before Covid. They went back and did not return. During Covid, only one family stayed back and that was the Miyakes. Ari is a legend for us. Now, the mothers, who are returning one by one, seek help from Ari on how to manage life and other cultural issues,”.
“As an association, we had lots of activities. There were 236 Japanese living in Gujarat before Covid. But most of them returned to Japan during the pandemic. Today, eight families have come for the event and only two of them have children,” Shakiyama said the association plans to update a website about Japanese people living in Gujarat.
“Food” is a challenge for any Japanese living alone in Ahmedabad, Sakiyama said. “This is a vegetarian state and so, finding meat is difficult. We also have to adapt when it comes to travelling on a bus or taking a flight. The Indian and Japanese standards are different. So, we cannot have it the way it is in Japan,” he said. Sakiyama says he has picked up a few Gujarati words for greeting and welcoming local colleagues.
“The idea of the event is to help integrate the Japanese families with Gujarat. This helps the business also. If families are there, then the local Japanese culture can coexist with the Gujarati culture,” said Mukesh Patel, the president of Indo-Japan Friendship Association.The evening at AMA was attended by diplomats, including Toshihiro Kaneko, Chief Consul of Consulate General of Japan in Mumbai, and officials from various Japanese firms such as Mizuho Bank, Daiichi Jitsugyo India Pvt Ltd, Suzuki Motor Gujarat Pvt Ltd, JETRO Ahmedabad, Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India Pvt Ltd.