Shi­mada and His “Top Curry” Restau­rant


Special Focus - - Contents - Zhou Xianx­ian 周献献

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


岛田是日本福冈人,今年 71岁,35岁开始游历世界,去过很多地方,八年前选择留在中国武汉。他说武汉绿化好,空气清新,和福冈很像,更重要的是,这里的人很友好,住这里安心。

岛田在武汉开了一家咖喱店——“顶屋咖喱”,美味实惠,每天晚上还有免费的日语教学,来吃饭的年轻人很多,他们都亲切地称他“岛爷爷”。岛爷爷说,他开店不是为了赚钱,年纪大了,又没孩子,也不需要什么钱,能够和年轻人接触交流,他觉得有活力,非 常幸福。

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

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