Fascinating Japan

A Japanese treat for Chennai movie buffs.

A Japanese treat for Chennai movie buffs.  

CHENNAI, THE land of the blazing sun, seems to be increasingly fascinated by Japan, the land of the rising sun. Though our city has just about 140 Japanese people, as opposed to Bangalore, which has almost double the number ever since a large part of Chennai's Japanese community migrated there along with the Toyota factory a few years ago, the Chennai-Japan link has just got stronger.

Japan's chic and charming Vice-Consul for Information and Cultural Affairs, Keiko Nakano, is visibly thrilled about the enthusiasm Indian students have for her language. "About 1,000 students took the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam recently," she says.

Over the past few years Japanese has become one of Chennai's most popular foreign languages. And the organisations and teachers of the language in the city have ensured that besides learning Japanese, their students also gain an insight into the lives and customs of the country's people.

So now, after 50 years of Indo-Japanese relations, a good number of Chennaiites can not only both pronounce and eat `sushi' with �lan, but also read out most of a Japanese menu without sending their waiter into a spasm of giggles. In fact, Akasaka and Dahlia, the city's two Japanese restaurants, are still going strong after outgrowing the `novelty' factor, even though they serve authentic Japanese food in a city which is supposed to be too `conservative' to experiment with and enjoy unfamiliar cuisine. And for those who don't want to put food they can't pronounce into their mouths, there are the occasional Japanese cultural events, the next in line being the "Tsugaru Shamisen and Japanese drum concert" scheduled between December 11th and 14th.

But for an abbreviated Japanese experience with impact all you have to sit in a darkened theatre and lose yourselves in the lives and loves of its people, like most Chennai movie buffs have done for more than a decade now.

This week the Japanese movie festival is back with a set of movies that have travelled from Delhi to Kolkata to Mumbai before touching down in Chennai. `Tokyo Marigold', `Bounce', `Sonatine', `Mother' and `Carmen's Pure Love', will be screened in Chennai between December 5th and 8th at the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the International Cine Appreciation Forum.

Real life might not be just like the movies, but for Chennaiites bitten by the Japan-bug, this is one chance to travel though the land of the rising sun, at least in their imaginations.

By Shonali Muthalaly

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