Shimada and His “Top Curry” Restaurant
I feel happy for the first few days when I come back and eat delicious food in Japan, but after several days, my spirits will sink, and I’ll be eager to get back to Wuhan,” Mr. Shimada said with a smile on his face.
Shimada Kouji, 71 years old, is from Fukuoka, Japan. He began to travel around the world at the age of 35 and has visited a lot of places. Eight years ago, he decided to settle in Wuhan because he liked the greenery and fresh air here which were similar to that of his hometown. What’s more, he liked the local people who were friendly to him, and he felt at ease while living here.
Mr. Shimada opened a curry restaurant named “Top Curry” in Wuhan. Because of the taste and affordable price, as well as the free Japanese lessons that he offers in the evening, his restaurant is popular among the youth, who prefer to affectionately call him “Grandpa Dao” (“Dao” is the short form of Daotian, the Chinese translation of Shimada). Grandpa Dao, growing old and having no child, doesn’t need much money, so his restaurant is not for making a fortune. For him, it’s great to communicate with young people, and he believes that, in this way, he can always be full of energy and happiness.
Mr. Shimada entrusts his restaurant to a local post-90s girl named Dan who is fond of
岛爷爷的店交给店主丹子打理。丹子，武汉本地人，是一个带点文艺范的 90 后姑娘，和岛爷爷认识已经四年多。岛爷爷不会讲中文，丹子日语专业毕业，和岛爷爷交流没有什么障碍，两个人一起研发新品，还时不时地用日语开玩笑，像朋友，更像家人。
literature and art. She has been employed by Grandpa Dao as the manager of his restaurant for more than four years. Grandpa Dao can’t speak Chinese, but Dan, majoring in Japanese, can communicate with him in Japanese fluently. Thus, they often work together and discuss how they can develop new menus, and sometimes they also make jokes in Japanese. They look like friends and family too.
When not running his business or giving Japanese lessons, Grandpa Dao usually stays at home reading or playing Go, rarely going out. When Dan is free, she will bring him with her to art exhibitions and dramas. Both are free of other commitments, so once they decide to travel, they just take a bus from the departure station to the terminal station. As such, when there is something attractive outside the window, they will get off. Additionally, Dan often invites Grandpa Dao to spend Chinese festivals with her and her family.
When asked about life in Dan’s hometown, Grandpa Dao gets very excited and describes vividly all he saw and heard. Dan’s home is in the countryside, where cicadas can be heard in summer and dogs and roosters can be heard at dawn. Grandpa Dao imitated these voices with extraordinarily high and delightful tones. He said he felt extremely moved when he heard them. In winter, he saw there was a wood-burning stove and insisted on boiling coffee by making a fire, despite the fact that there were modern domestic appliances. “Before the water boils,” he said. “I just watch the burning fire and smell the fragrance of firewood. I really enjoy it.”
Grandpa Dao is always ready to resolve customers’ problems with patience, so his “Top Curry” is regarded as another “Namiya General Store.” Now, it is becoming difficult for this aging old man to answer customers’ questions and teach Japanese on his own. Sometimes, Dan, will communicate with customers on his behalf. Then she translates their conversations to Grandpa Dao and he usually praises her, saying, “Wow, excellent! I didn’t think about that at all. Good job! Good girl!”
To others’ eyes, Dan is like Mr. Shimada’s daughter, but for him, sometimes she is more like his mother. Dan not only manages his curry restaurant but also takes care of him in daily life. Mr. Shimada has a good disposition and he can’t speak Chinese, so he would sometimes be tricked and suffer losses. Once Dan was informed of such a slight, and she confronted the dishonest person directly and demanded justice for Mr. Shimada. Grandpa Dao who was protected behind her attempted to stop her and said in a low voice, “Well, it’s all right. Come on!” He remarked that he felt very happy when he was like a child being protected by his mother.
Grandpa Dao likes China because he is deeply affected by the kindess and warm care from the locals. Due to his poor Chinese, he doesn’t have many friends in China, and he has become acquainted with many of them just in the restaurant or in Japanese lessons. Although they have little contact in daily life, these friends will give him a hand when he is in need. Some even come to visit him from other provinces, which moves him very much.
Grandpa Dao’s Top Curry, which was once relocated, has developed into two restaurants in 2016, still run by Dan. What is most interesting is that both restaurants were completed and opened after Dan became pregnant, so she said jokingly that she gave birth to three children: her son and the two restaurants. She hopes all of them can grow healthily. No matter what, Top Curry will always be there, and she will make sure they are brought up right.
岛爷爷总是耐心地帮陌生人解决困扰，因此也有人说他的“顶屋咖喱”像“解忧杂货铺”。现在岛爷爷年纪大了，身体不太好，答疑、教学不像以前都亲力亲为，丹子有时替他和客人沟通，之后再翻译给岛爷爷听。“哇，好厉害啊 ! 这一点我都没想到呢，做得好！做得好！”岛爷爷经常会这样夸丹子。
Mr. Shimada (right) and Dan 岛田（右）和丹子
After a free Japanese lesson, Mr. Shimada took photos with students from different countries 岛田在日语交流会后与同学们合影