Russian Food & Terra Formas Asimov – part 1
Russian food in Tokyo.
People often ask me why there are lots of food in my manga. The reason is obviously that I really love food and food cultures from around the world.
Maybe I keep remember the scenes from the stories I’ve read in my childhood. Such as <Robinson Crusoe>, <Gargantua and Pantagruel> or <Gulliver’s Travels>. In these stories, “cooking and food” are both very important. It’s because they’re expressing human lives.
But the biggest reason that I put food in my works is because I want to communicate with readers and understand through cooking and food.
As a foreigner mangaka working in Japanese manga circles, I always aim to know the readers better and better to understand their culture.
What are the best ways to know and understand Japanese culture? There are many. Such as dating a Japanese girlfriend or getting adopted into a Japanese family.
But I’m a 42 years old married man. What kind of Japanese family would adopt a middle-aged man like me?
The best way to understand Japanese culture is still to go back to school, have some after school activities and make as many Japanese friends as possible.
But all these are nonsense for me. Because I’m a mangaka.
For a mangaka, understanding and knowing the readers and their cultures are both very important but the most important is still to draw manga.
I must draw manga everyday. I spend most of my life drawing manga. My life is creating manga.
I’m drawing manga so much that I don’t have time to make friends.
When I go on a trip, I keep working so I don’t have much time to enjoy sightseeing monuments or shopping here and there.
Wherever I go, I mostly stay in my hotel room and work.
I’m also not studying Japanese, I can’t speak it. There are many reasons why but the simplest is as follow: do manga readers need a foreigner mangaka who can speak Japanese fluently with them or one who draws manga they enjoy reading?
Right. They want to read manga, not to listen or talk with me in Japanese.
That’s why I gave up studying Japanese and it made me feel a little lonely during those 10 years here. However, is there any way for me to understand Japanese culture as Japanese do?
I think there is one, even if I’m very busy. That is “eating”. We all eat everyday no matter who we are.
So I chose to understand and communicate with the readers through “eating”.
It may be a difficult way to understand other cultures that enjoy social lifestyles such as dating or making friends, but I think it’s the best for me.
Because everyone eat in their lives. It’s a common trait that shared by all of human life. That’s why cooking and eating are the best ways for me to understand and get close to my fans and readers.
Anyways, I digress.
In the summer of 2015, I decided to do the side-story of a very famous Japanese SciFi action manga: <Terra Formars Asimov>. The main character is Russian so I thought that I needed to know about Russia.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any experience with Russian food back then.
So once I was back from the Paris “Japan Expo”, I started researching for a Russian food experience.
This is one of the restaurants I went to that end.
It’s a well known Russian restaurant named “Sarafan (САРАФАН)” in Tokyo.
Although not as much as in the past, it still emanates the atmosphere of Jimbocho.
As a college’s street there were lots of Japanese homemade food style restaurants for college students. I want to go back there to try them one day.
One of my favorite manga called “Sake no Hyo Do” introduced “Sarafan” in one of its episode. I watched it and that’s why I came here.
That is not the only reason for that restaurant to be featured in this famous manga, it also has a 50 years long history.
The outside of Sarafan looks so old but it appeared to me that this was the Jimbochi way.
It’s a Russian restaurant but the chef and the waiters are all Japanese. Maybe they only serve a Japanese-style flavor of the Russian cuisine.
I got a little worried when that thought came to me because the reason of my presence here was to experience the real Russian food. It was only needless worry.
It was surprisingly delicious!! It has a very comfy taste.
The editor who came with us said “Ah, so this is a mother’s taste.” Of course our mothers are not Russian.^^
This was the first time I tried Russian black bread but when I eat it, I felt that it’s a really great and powerful food.
So this is the taste of mother Russia… A cold and harsh winter land but with with a kind, warm and gentle inside. It’s amazing. This is really great.
It’s made with buckwheat but I was very surprised when I eat it!! My mouth left out an instinctive “Oh God”.
That “Oh God” was because of the strong buckwheat taste filling my mouth. Japanese and Koreans love the taste of soba (buckwheat) so much! There are various kind of buckwheat dishes in both countries and I like them all.
But this pancake showed me that Russians as well enjoy the flavor of buckwheat. I give Russians my respect.
These dishes were so delicious to us even though we are foreigners. I could feel the reason why this small restaurant survived a half century in Japan.
My editor was also very surprised and told me “This is way too good! I think these Russian dishes must’ve been adapted to Japanese tastes.”
I agreed with him at that time but afterward my wife went to Russia for <Terra Formars Asimov> and told me that those dishes from Sarafan were served in the true Russian style.
Oh, indeed. Delicious food stays delicious for everybody and in every countries. Nationality is not an obstacle to enjoy food.
Pirozhki is usually known as baked dumplings but this one is wrapped with Blini and baked as such. When I ate it, the taste of buckwheat filled whole my whole mouth
I don’t know the name of these dishes. (If anyone know the name of this dish, plz tell me.)
I enjoyed a Russian tea after dessert.
In other places they served some jam as well but here it was only tea.
I always eat dishes and aim to understand cultures and people through their cuisine.
The stage for <Terraformers Asimov> is in Russia so I have to know and understand Russia better. I need to understand more about the culture and the country so I can share what I felt from those to my readers through my works.
I went to eat Russian food and it was really delicious. It is a great pleasure and experience to approach other cultures and show them in my works.
Это действительно вкусно!