TOKYO, Nov 28: When Leela Bohara came to Japan 14 years ago, he worked as a helper in a Pakistani restaurant. Originally from Galkot in Baglung, he entered Japan with a cook’s visa but was forced to settle for a helper’s position which only gave him the minimum wage.
However, now, his lifestyle has changed. Not only did he become the proprietor of his own restaurant in a very short period of time, but he is now also known for establishing a business which has made Nepali cuisine a favorite amongst Japanese.
He owns five restaurants in Fuchu in Tokyo and serves Nepali cuisines throughout the day. His clients are mostly Japanese. “If it weren’t for the Japanese clients, my restaurants wouldn’t sustain,” he says, “Along with promoting Nepali cuisine, I am also earning a good amount of money.” He adds that catering to the interest shown by the Japanese, towards Nepali cuisine, he is focusing on serving Nepali food.
The number of Nepalis coming to Japan with a cook’s visa is in an increasing trend. However, they have been working as cheap labor in Indian, Pakistani and Japanese restaurants.
“In my initial years in Japan, I also worked for restaurants serving foreign cuisines,” informs Bohara, “But I decided that since I already have the skills, I didn’t want to work under anyone and hence, I invested in a restaurant of my own. Now it’s doing pretty well.”
In 2005, he opened ‘Pariwar Restaurant’ with an investment of 6.5 million and has now expanded to four other restaurants under the same name. Bohara has an investment amounting to around 20 million in total, in the city of Fuchu and employs 11 Nepalis in the restaurants.
Although Bohara came as an ordinary laborer, he shares that hard work and innovation has helped him succeed. “Had I opened any other restaurant, instead of a Nepali restaurant, my business wouldn’t have been so popular,” he says, adding, “With good food and hospitality, Nepali cuisine can be desirable anywhere.” Although he is the owner, Bohara still hasn’t stopped cooking in his restaurants.
Many youth who come to Japan in a similar fashion like Bohara did, 14 years ago, have been unemployed due to lack of jobs. The recession has hit the hotel and restaurant sector as well. However, the effects of recession haven’t been so bad for Bohara and his restaurants.
Danbahadur Chhetri, an employee in Bohara’s restaurants, says, “Perhaps because Japanese find Nepali cuisine different and delicious, the number of clients in our restaurants hasn’t decreased.” He shares that Nepali daal, rice, roti and tandoori are amongst the most popular Nepali foods in the restaurants.