Arguably the most famous Nepali curry shop in Japan is Daisuki Nippon (I Love Japan) in Itabashi-ku, Tokyo. Since its opening in 2010, this tiny, independently-run restaurant has managed to get attention from all corners of the country in a story that plays out eerily similar to the plot of a Seinfeld episode.
The story begins with shop owner Pradahan Vikas struggling to get anyone to come to his store. Sometimes he would go the entire day without serving a meal. Faced with such hard times, Mr. Vikas turned to Twitter to chronicle his worries, unbeknownst to him that they would be the key to his success.
Written in sloppy Japanese using only the simple hiragana alphabet – which gives the same impression in English as writing in red crayon with backwards R’s – Vikas’ hard luck stories tugged at the heartstrings of Japanese people everywhere.
Here’s one of his tweets from 6 November, 2010:
“Today also was a hard day. Only one couple came for lunch. I handed out fliers but no one who took them has come to my shop. Oh Vikas, what are you going to do? I’m getting very scared.”
Almost every day he would continue to tweet his hardships in endearing Japanese that caught the eyes of readers on Twitter. Soon his tweets spread and the number of visitors to his little shop skyrocketed.
Media outlets all over (including yours truly) began to pick up on this curry-flavored Cinderella story, bolstering the restaurant’s popularity even further. And because Vikas’ cooking is actually good, his repeat customers also grew.
After that, his tweets turned to messages of joy that the people of Japan had come to his aid. “I can’t stop my tears of joy,” one of his tweets said in its trademark red-crayon fashion. His Twitter followers at that time had totaled approximately 10,000, but have broken 80,000 as of the time this article was written.
But those 80,000 didn’t come just because of Mr. Vikas’ charmingly innocent tweets. A few days after the Tohoku Earthquake hit in 2011, Vikas put smiles on grief-stricken faces with his humble tweet announcing a donation 100,000 yen (US$1,210) to relief efforts. That number along might not sound impressive, but if you saw the little curry shop that generated the money, you would understand.
Recently, as Japan held memorials one year after the disaster, Mr. Vikas again surprised everyone by making an equal donation to orphans of the quake and tsunami and promised in another surprisingly well-written Japanese tweet that he will continue to do so.
Living up to the name of his restaurant, Vikas truly does “love Japan” and the feeling is mutual as Japanese followers send their thanks and promises to continue eating his great curry.
Thinking of Vikas’ kind-hearted actions and struggling ethnic restaurant, I’m reminded of when Jerry Seinfeld tried to help local restaurateur Babu Bhatt; only this story has a happy ending for everyone involved and the Japanese are not “a very, very bad man.”