Jagmohan S. Chandrani

  • Peter Barakan

    Host

    Born in London in 1951, Peter earned a degree in Japanese from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). An expert on diverse forms of popular music, Peter is also a well-known TV and radio presenter. He has lived in Japan for 40 years and has a deep understanding of the language and culture.

  • Jagmohan S. Chandrani

    Main guest

    Born in Kolkata, India, Jagmohan S. Chandrani is the chairman of the Indian Community of Edogawa (ICE) and owner of a tea import store. He moved to Japan in 1978 to assist with his family’s trade business. Chandrani started his tea import business in 1979, and it has pioneered the way for Indian tea in Japan. Chandrani currently oversees ICE while running his tea store. As ICE chairman, he offers support to fellow Indians living in Japan and promotes cultural exchange between India and Japan.

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December 4, 2018

Japanophiles: Jagmohan S. Chandrani

*You will leave the NHK website.

This edition of Japanophiles centers on Jagmohan S. Chandrani, an Indian who has been in Japan for four full decades. We hear how he became known as a founding father of the largest Indian community in Japan. Through his story, we get an insight into the experience of moving to Japan from abroad and the culture that immigrants bring with them.

Chandrani has spent almost all his life in Japan in Nishi-kasai, a commuter town on the eastern tip of Tokyo. When he arrived, it was covered in farmland and didn't even have a train station. It has since undergone massive urban development and is now known to some as "Little India."

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Chandrani's favorite spot in Nishi-kasai, the Arakawa River: Tokyo's "Ganges."

The district's star attractions are surely its restaurants. Curry is popular all over Japan, but this is one of the few places you can enjoy an authentic Indian taste. The more common Japanese curry, eaten both at home (thanks to packaged blocks of roux) and at restaurants, did actually originate in India. But it made a detour on its route to the east. It was actually the British that introduced curry to Japan, in the early 20th century. The British Navy served it to Japanese naval officers during meetings, and it caught on immediately.

Perhaps you'd like to try your hand at cooking Indian food yourself? Nishi-kasai has shops with imported ingredients, spices and tea leaves piled high. The variety—and quantity—of their stock is extremely tricky to get hold of anywhere else. Chandrani himself co-owns a tea shop; a business he has been running with his wife since 1979.

For the full cultural experience, it's wise to time your visit to coincide with one of Nishi-kasai's Indian festivals, which take place several times a year. This is when Indians in the neighborhood gather, and the streets explode with color and song. The most important event of all is Diwali, a "festival of light" celebrated by Indians of all religions: Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists alike. It commemorates the victory of light over darkness.

Diwali is one of hundreds of festivals across Japan where a foreign country's culture is celebrated, to the delight of immigrants and Japanese alike. There's the Brazilian Samba Carnival in Asakusa, which attracts an incredible half a million revelers; the simply-named Thai Festival, which boasts guests as illiustrious as the boxer Manny Pacquiao; and St. Patrick's Day, which turns Japan's big cities green each February.

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Chandrani and his wife, Bela, enjoy tea with host Peter Barakan.

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Chandrani speaks at an Indian community gathering.

At other times of year, Indians can often be found at the local community center, singing and talking together. Places like Nishi-kasai, where fellow expatriates support each other and where a faraway country's culture is strongly on display, are slowly increasing in Japan. The most well-known include Chinatown in Yokohama—reputedly the largest Chinatown in Asia—and the area around Shin-Okubo Station in Tokyo, sometimes called Korea Town.

As Chandrani explains in the program, it isn't easy to come to Japan. For new arrivals, it can be a challenge to find somewhere to sleep, eat and socialize. And that's not to mention the language barrier! But the foreign population of Japan is quickly going up, with the number at the end of 2017 sitting at just over 2.5 million people; a 7.5% increase compared to just one year earlier. Chandrani and his fellow residents of Nishi-kasai are a wonderful example of an expatriate community giving everyone in the country more chances to experience something new.

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Host and guest, getting along famously.

*You will leave the NHK website.