From raw fish to sausage and beans

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOOD is a problem for many Japanese in Britain. Youngsters may be happy to eat steak and beefburgers, older people are not: they miss their noodle shops at lunchtime, and dislike dairy products.

'I like smoked salmon very much, but I can't eat steak and kidney pie,' says Kaoru Itoh, 40, of the Industrial Bank of Japan. 'If I had to eat only British food for three weeks, I would feel some difficulty. There are too many potatoes and sometimes no taste.'

Yoshio Kojima, at Hitachi in Aberdare, agrees. 'Welsh food has not good taste. Too much boiled, too much volume.' A book on sale in Tokyo is called British Food is Delicious - Japanese irony, Mr Itoh explains.

Tomoo Mitani, at Sony in south Wales, is an optimist. 'I've found sausage and beans is not so good for my body,' he says. 'But after a year I may like them.' He and his wife eat Japanese-style about half the time. There are no Japanese shops in Wales, so she has become expert at finding the nearest equivalent in Tesco.

Sony, which has been manufacturing in Wales for 20 years, is particularly keen to be seen to be local. The canteen does not serve Japanese food because, Mr Mitani says, it does not want to create barriers. 'If we eat raw fish in the canteen, they would feel there is a wall.'

In London, Japanese food is available, but only at a price. 'It is three times more than it is in Japan,' says Masami Sato, who works for a trading company. The wife of the stockbroker Hisao Yamaguchi uses the large Japanese supermarket in New Malden but tries to buy as little as possible there because of the prices.

Cost is also the big deterrent to eating in Japanese restaurants. Even though there is a choice of 65 in London, Mr Itoh uses them only when clients come visiting from Japan. 'They are very expensive and not as good as in Japan,' he says. There is one Japanese restaurant in Cardiff, but the managers from Sony avoid it: it is expensive, Mr Mitani says, and they are unwilling to drive back. Like most Japanese, they find Chinese restaurants a reasonable substitute.

(Photographs omitted)