A little bit of Japan in India – Bombay
There are a few genuine corners of Japan in Bombay. The two old ones are the Japanese Temple or Nipponzan Myohoji in Worli and the Japanese Cemetery on Haines Road (Dr E Moses Marg), also in Worli.
In the 13th Century a Japanese monk, Maha Bodhisattva Nicherin, made a prophecy that humanity’s ultimate salvation lay in India and that Buddhism would spread to the rest of the world from there. In 1931, a follower of Nicherin, Nichidatsu Fujii arrived in India to fulfil that prophecy. He influenced Mahatama Gandhi who incorporated the main prayer of this school of Buddhism,“Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” into his community’s daily service. In 1956 a temple was constructed for the followers of Nipponzan Myohoji school of Buddhism.
Today the temple is looked after by Bhikshu Morita, the resident monk, who’s been in India for over 30 years. In 1992, when there were communal riots in Bombay, Bhikshu Morita walked the streets with his drum chanting – Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, a messenger for peace. This was same prayer that Gandhiji had been so moved by.
The other old Japanese pocket is the Japanese Cemetery on Haines Road. I haven’t got to the cemetery yet but it’s on my list. I looked it up and there were different versions of when it was constructed. One article said it was 1907 for Japanese traders and prostitutes brought over by the British, the second half of which doesn’t sound right. The other article puts it at 1952 and was for Japanese traders and their geisha. Two different periods in history. What I love is that the cemetery commemorates these women, whether geisha or prostitutes.
The more recent and less sombre addition to Japanese Bombay is the restaurant Kofuku in Bandra. Kofuku, which means happiness and good fortune in Japanese, opened on the 21st of September. Don’t be put off by the ugly building and surroundings; it’s a lovely space once you get in and you’re greeted by the staff crying out “irashaimase”, which means welcome and “arigato”, thank you when you leave. We sat at low traditional tables on pillows on the floor, the area is called zashiki and my daughter absolutely loved it. She said it’s like our own little house (she is a Bombay girl after all).
The food was delicious and there were quite a few Japanese families, which says a lot for the restaurant. We chose child friendly food so our 6 ½ year old would enjoy the meal. We shouldn’t have worried because she’s actually pretty adventurous and ate her first sushi at a conveyer belt sushi restaurant, Yo Sushi in London at the age of 18 months.
We had Cherry Blossom Makizushi – which was described as a flower shaped roll with salmon and avocado filled in the centre with a colourful outer layer of tuna, with flying fish roe. Naira chose it for the name and it was delicious.
After which we had Chicken Yakitori, grilled chicken and leeks in a caramelised sauce, Kushi Katsu, deep fried chicken cutlet on a skewer and Pan Grilled Fish with Spicy Lemon Sauce, some rice and we ended with really nice green tea ice cream. Delicious. Next time some sashimi, some nigiri, more sushi and some ramen or udon noodles. Can’t wait.
Opposite Poddar Hospital
(Prayers between 6 AM to 7 AM and 5.30 PM to 7.30 PM)
Dr. E Moses Road,
Second Floor, Kenilworth Shopping Arcade
Off Linking Road
Bandra West 400050
+91 22 6710 1101