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Beef with Wasabi Sauce

From Planet 214

Eluned Gramich reflects on her time working in Tokyo’s Welsh Government office and socialising at Y Gymdeithas Dewi Sant.

It’s late afternoon inTokyo’s Welsh Government office. A time when my thoughts are not officially allowed to wander, but they do anyway, drifting through the last two months of my internship, courting the bittersweet sadness that comes with having to leave a place I’ve come to love. In my cubicle, a photograph of Carwyn Jones smiles at me encouragingly. Welsh road maps showing the location of Japanese businesses are pinned alongside plans of the Tokyo metro. Outside, ten flights below on street level in Aksaka-Mitsuke, the daily drone of the Japanese nationalists filters into the office, playing nostalgic Enka music from loudspeakers attached to black vans. The secretary Hashimoto-San offers me a mochi – for the energy – a glutinous rice cake with sweet red-bean paste.

Our boss, the Wales Representative of Japan Nakajima-San, and my colleague Okada-San, are in the conference room with a client – a sales rep from a Japanese food company. They’re talking about introducing Japanese food products to Welsh supermarkets and vice versa. There’s granola and Welsh jam on the table next to a box of dried fish flakes. When I come in to serve green tea, Nakajima-San is playing ‘Sosban Fach’ on YouTube; the guest ums and ahs politely as he watches the male-voice choir belting it out. So that is Wales, he seems to be saying. The choir reaches the last line and the sales rep grows contemplative. ‘Interesting, interesting,’ he says again and again. ‘So that is the Welsh language. It does sound different to English, doesn’t it?’



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