Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yan Yifei (China)
Sushi chef (She’d been in Japan Sept.2008 – Apr.2012)
My Eyes Tokyo Radio listeners may have heard the name of this sushi restaurant – “Nadeshico Sushi“. Nadeshico (Nadeshiko) is originally a kind of flower and it has become a compliment to the beauty of Japanese women. As indicated by the name, beautiful women make sushi as sushi chefs and customers smack their lips while chatting with chefs – such a unique sushi restaurant opened in Akihabara, the mecca of otaku (geek) culture, in October 2010.
We were involved in their activity by chance. We were asked to help a sushi making class there on November 1, 2010, a month after its opening. We got to know about the restaurant for the first time and met this woman, Yan Yifei. We saw her talking to foreign customers in English and thought she was a Japanese. Of course her English was excellent, but she was talking to Japanese co-workers in Japanese like a native speaker. But we heard it. “She is Chinese”.
We were really, really surprised! So automatically we asked her to be on the radio with us. But we lost touch with her for a year. However fortunately we could hear her stories from her right before her departure for home. Now listen to the voice of a sushi girl from China!
A hard-core otaku
I really love it here in Akihabara. I work here and come here on holidays, too. I spend the night and all here so you can say I live here.
Akihabara is a kind of guy’s place, so many of friends of mine are men. I have some female otaku friends, but they prefer Ikebukuro because there is a female oriented otaku area called “Otome (Virgin) Road“. There are some “shitsuji (Butler) cafes” in the area that are popular with girls.
Akihabara is famous in China. When I was home, I really loved Japanese anime and game. So when I heard about the town, I felt Akihabara is a sort of heaven for otakus like me. I really wanted to come because I’m a hard-core otaku. Now I’m moderately a game geek. Actually I was playing “Monster Hunter” at an arcade before this interview.
I’ve been a big fan of Japanese anime and manga (cartoons) since I was an elementary or junior high schooler. I remember that my first anime which I saw was “Saint Seiya“. Many Japanese anime were broadcasted in China at that time. Also “Dragon Ball” and “Slam Dunk” were very popular, “Doraemon” is still very popular with kids in China. So the environment surrounding anime fans was not so different from here.
News coverage of Nadeshico Sushi (Jiji Press *Japanese)
School for Japanese language teachers
Before coming to Japan, I was a university student in Henan Province, China. I hit it off with an Japanese teacher who was teaching Japanese at my university. She was 2 years older than I was and teaching Japanese daily conversation. I majored in international trade, but she triggered my desire to learn Japanese. Originally I liked to study foreign languages. I think my English skills at that time were higher than now.
I wanted to work at a Japanese company and my mother suggested I study in Japan. I said yes with alacrity and I obtained the Level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test after a year of self-study.
I went to a school called Japan College of Foreign Languages in Tokyo. That’s more of a training school for Japanese language teachers for foreigners than a Japanese language school. Most of my classmates were Japanese. They became Japanese instructors after graduation.
“Make sushi here”
Before working at Nadeshico Sushi, I was working in Akihabara as a tour guide. A representative of the restaurant and an organizer of the Akihabara tour are friends so I was introduced to Nadeshico Sushi.
I met a tour organizer at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2010. She asked me if I liked sushi and I said Yes. Then she told me about Nadeshico Sushi. I got really interested in the restaurant.
In an interview, a boss said, “I would like you to make sushi eventually” because he wanted me to convey sushi culture to my folks after returning home. A year and a half have past and I became the second longest employee at the restaurant. A big crowd comes to Akihabara on weekends so I’m asked to work on weekends, because I’m a staff who can share topics with customers best.
To be a Japanese instructor in China
I’m going home on April 15 (Interviewed on April 8) but nothing has been decided about my future yet. I want to be a Japanese instructor, but it’s not in big demand in the place where I come from. People in Inland China tend to study in Canada or Europe. There are only a few Japanese companies in my area so Japan is not so popular as a destination.
On the other hand, Shanghai people want to study in Japan. So I’m going to Shanghai. I’ve not decided whether to enter a company or to be an instructor. But what I want to be is a teacher.
My Japanese skills are really high among Chinese. So I’m competitive in China. However in Japan, I would have to compete with Japanese, which means I would face native speakers’ competition. Even if I became a teacher at a Japanese language school in Japan, students who paid expensive school fees would feel strange to have a Chinese person teaching them Japanese. They expect that they would be learning from a native Japanese speaker. So I would be able to be a staff of a Japanese language school in Japan, but I wouldn’t be able to be a teacher here.
Open up a sushi bar in Shanghai?
I’ve worked for Nadeshico Sushi for a year and a half. I’ve had a really wonderful time there. How many women in Japan could learn about sushi that much? I really want to thank my boss.
Every time I went to a sushi bar, I gazed at sushi chef’s hands to learn how to make sushi. The number of rice grains are almost the same no matter how many times time-served sushi chefs grab grains of rice. I’m not so experienced, but I’m confident about doing that. So my boss told me. “Don’t you want to open our Shanghai Branch?”. We’ve not worked out details yet, though.
I’m really attached to Japan. So I want to come to Japan many times on business! That would be ideal.
What is Akihabara to you?
Akihabara is a “two-dimensional town”, which means that it doesn’t represent reality. So it’s heaven.
What is Tokyo to you?
It’s a city which lies between heaven and hell!