A lot of people have asked, “What is Shougaiwa?” and “Why Shougaiwa?” And the answer obviously is to spread the word of Gero-san! Jokes aside though, We think it’s a good time to explain the ideology behind Gero-san and Shougaiwa, in general.
A decade ago, anime was spreading fast across the western world. A lot of people loved it and a lot of people hated it. I was one of the people who thought the latest ones were terrible. I’ll stick to my Dragon Ball Z, thank you very much. I was also learning to cook Indian dishes at the time and made a killer Paneer Butter Masala, if I do say so myself. That all changed when I bought a Naruto game for my PS2 and thoroughly enjoyed myself playing it and getting into the story. Then came the anime. Then, a straight jump into manga.
It was addictive! I loved the characters, the way the story was written and the imagination and work that went into each one. As a person who wanted to become an author, it was everything I wanted. Manga also led me to Japanese culture and history. Many abilities and names were based on actual Japanese tales. The sword of Kusanagi, for example. The Mangekyou Sharingan using Amaterasu. This just made everything much better and interesting. As I got deeper into things, I got disappointed as well. The things I read about and watched videos of were just not available in Mumbai.
It didn’t stop there. Nothing was really “Asian”. We made everything Indian. The flavours and textures that were available overseas made our food seem limited. Great food, but a similar was of doing things. Limited. My biggest obsession became ramen and Japanese curry. My friends and I (who now help with Shougaiwa) went to “Kofuku” and ate what seemed to be the best curry and best tofu there. And then we bought Japanese curry from Singapore when a friend went there.
Then I bought a noodle machine for experiments with ramen. This really boosted me into the space of wanting to make Japanese food for a living, but ramen was just too much work for the level I was at. And that’s when I found out about Kimchi. I made my first batch using five times the spice I was supposed to and it still tasted great! I refined the recipe I made and experimented until I was able to easily make it. I could probably make it in my sleep and keep it fermenting for more than a year. This is the final push I needed and I started making it in preparation for One Earth festival.
The fest was a success and here we are. Ready to make and sell products that will help India step beyond India and learn what the rest of Asia is about. At Shougaiwa, we won’t rest until people think of something other than Maggi or Top Ramen when someone says “Ramen” and until people stop thinking kimchi is “that China restaurant cabbage”.
We don’t want to teach you. We don’t know enough. We just know the surface and we’re looking to dive in. Would you like to dive in with us?