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Japanese food Ireland « An American in Ireland

Entries tagged with “Japanese food Ireland”.


Family photo, Erly March 1953, (1)

(L-R: My grandfather (Ojiisan), Aunt Kyoko, Aunt Hiroko, grandmother (Obaachan), Uncle Eichi, my mother, who is the baby of the family, and Aunt Yoko)

My uncle has always been a dreamlike figure to me, someone who I know only through stories my mother told me. He was gone long before I was born, but that fact has never affected my fascination with him and his story.

He was born in the late 1920s in Osaka, Japan, an intolerant era for people born with any sort of visible disability. Because he had club hands and a limp when he walked, it begs to wonder if he ever had a chance at a normal life in a time where ignorance often led to discrimination. My mother told me about how when Eichi needed help finding something in a shop, some clerks would simply ignore him and pretend he wasn’t there.

Some would ask him directly what his mother had done to be given such an imperfect son. I always imagine those hurtful words being spoken with particular emphasis, considering he was the first and only son in the family – a position that, under normal circumstances, would have been acknowledged and even celebrated many times throughout his life.

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Communion

Father Tom Tehan (with the beard) of Co. Meath at our First Communion; I think that’s me raising my candle and my sister in the back row (we’re identical twins and even I get confused!).

People here always ask me if I have any Irish blood coursing through my veins, and I always replied that I do not. I’m half-Japanese, part German, perhaps a bit Czech and maybe even a little Yugoslavian. But Irish, no – at least that’s what I thought.

And then several weeks ago my dad emailed to tell me that he was looking through our ancestry files and was reminded that his great grandmother (which would be my great, great grandmother) was one Hanora N. McDonough born in January 1872 in…County Mayo, Ireland!? She immigrated to the United States and married Bernard Henry Cook on the 17th of September 1890. So there you go, I’m a bit Irish after all.

Relatives aside, my family has some long-standing Irish connections that I either didn’t know about until recently or just forgot about. Growing up in Japan, we had a very close family friend in the form of an Irish priest: Father Tom Tehan, who hails from County Meath of all places. My parents met him when we lived in Japan, and he has remained close to us over the years; he even flew out to Arkansas to give my sister and me our First Communion. Shortly after I moved here to Ireland, I met with Father Tom for a cup of tea and a chat when he was here for a short visit with his siblings.

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sushi 1 

Oh man, this place is soooo J.

This is something my sister would say if we walked into a particular type of place. What does “soooo J” mean? Sooooo Japanese. This comment would be appropriate is if my sister and I walked into a shopping centre that reminded us of one in Tokyo, maybe because of the items it sells or the general vibe of the place. Or if we walked past a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles full of Japanese people, we might say This place must be good, look at all the J’s in there!

Living here in Ireland, I rarely see Japanese people but the odd time I do I tend to make a verbal note of it – probably because it’s so unusual. Of course now Mountaineering Man has picked up on my use of J to refer to Japanese people; as he has a mischievous sense of humour, he’ll abuse the reference. Pretty much any Asian person we see will elicit a Look, there’s some J’s! He’s just being cheeky of course but I will admit I do find it quite funny. Moreover it’s interesting to observe his growing knowledge of Japanese food and culture, which he’s picking up in bits and pieces from me.

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fish clare

I used to be afraid to say the words, “I don’t know.” One of my biggest fears was admitting I didn’t know something, whether it was how to scuba dive or where St. Charles was located or how to properly light barbeque charcoals. For a long time I got away with a confident nod and a smile, which would deceive people into thinking I knew what I was talking about when in fact, I had no idea.

There was a particular period in my life where this whole charade became utterly exhausting and more trouble than it was worth. It was shortly after I graduated from college and I was living with roommates in a very hip part of San Francisco called Hayes Valley. Within a few months of living there I befriended a number of people in the neighborhood and became good friends with a couple of guys who lived down the street. Both exuded this almost tangible sense of cool; one had a very exotic and odd Finnish name, even though neither he nor his parents (or grandparents, for that matter) were from Finland. The other was tall and lanky and played guitar and spun records on his Technics 1200s in his spare time. Together they were the hipster poster boys for our stylish little ‘hood: all vintage threads, Swedish minimalism and wispy indifference. All the hipster girls in the neighborhood vied for their attention.

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