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Finding Pieces of India in Japan

Are you feeling homesick for India? Here are some experiences to remind you of home: from food to sports to festivals—even religion

By 5 min read

Living in Japan, homesickness can feel like an inevitability at times. The food you can only find at home, games and sports you miss playing with friends, and even the holidays in Japan can be radically different.

As someone from an Indian heritage living in Japan, I began my time here thinking I had sacrificed those things as part of my journey. But, as we’ll see, that couldn’t have been further from the truth, and it really isn’t all that hard to find pieces of India all throughout Japan.

Here is everything I’ve experienced in Japan to remind me of India.

Food

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Indian restaurants are everywhere, especially in major cities like Tokyo.

If you’ve opened a food delivery app anywhere in Tokyo, you’ll know about the dozens of Indian restaurants scattered throughout the city. It’s rare to be somewhere where you can’t get a delivered meal to bring back memories of home. Amongst the varieties of regional flavors are all of the common options–Daal, Chicken Tikka and all the curries you could remember.

But if restaurants don’t quite scratch that itch, an array of Indian grocery stores make it easy to cook comfort food in your own kitchen. With online groceries for remote locations, Indian spices and pantry staples are always available.

If you’re looking, Indobazaar and Ambika are two online stores with a massive selection, while Sartaj is a third with slightly more obscure ingredients you may struggle to find elsewhere. Even Amazon Japan has begun selling ingredients and ready meals. So you only have to wait a day to cook if you’re in a hurry.

Online Indian Shops

Festivals

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The Diwali festival in Yokohama.

Despite being a relatively small part of Japan’s demographics, cities, in particular Tokyo, have frequent events run by the Indian community. Yokohama’s Diwali celebration in Yamashita Park has around 200,000 attendees annually, with dozens of stalls selling Indian snacks, public dancing, and thousands of lights. In Nishi-Kasai, an area in Eastern Tokyo affectionately dubbed “Little India,” you can also find many other traditional holidays and festivals being celebrated year-round.

But it’s not only the largest celebrations that make you feel at home, with small Facebook groups and community events pages hosting their own festivals. From small, organized Garba dances during Navratri in Yokohama, to Vaisakhi celebrations run by a community effort in Ibaraki, Japan is playing host and embracing the festivals of India.

Here’s a quick list of some of the bigger festivals and their locations:

Holi (Tokyo): March
Vaisakhi (Ibaraki): April
Navratri (Tokyo): October
Diwali (Yamashita Park, Yokohama): October to November

Sports

Yoga is all the rage in Japan.

Though it’s never quite taken off like its American cousin baseball, cricket is the biggest sport in India, and Japan has recently begun to warm to the game. Several teams scattered throughout Japan hold regular tournaments and exhibition games.

The Japan Cricket Association offers cricket programs for students, female players, and anyone interested in the game. It might be difficult to not be at the heart of the cricketing world, but Japan still has options for those who miss it.

Likewise, while Kabaddi may only be a new sport, Japan has already embraced it. Students in school often play it in P.E, and the Japan Kabaddi Association connects players with clubs around the country. Japan even has a national Kabaddi team.

And, of course, Yoga, the traditional Vedic discipline, is popular in japan, from hot yoga classes offered by gym chains to outdoor yoga sessions run by community initiatives. Even completely authentic experiences are an option for those raised with Yoga. Groups on Facebook and MeetUp and events pop up regularly. So whether you’re new to Yoga or have been practicing since childhood, it’s easy to find a group in Japan.

Entertainment

नेटफ्लिक्स और सर्द?

With the thriving movie scene in Bollywood being a household name in India, a move to Japan might feel like a separation from the films and TV shows many of us grew up watching. But, while still accessible through streaming services, there’s nothing quite like watching a movie in a cinema for an immersive experience. Luckily, organizations such as Spacebox arrange Bollywood movie screenings in cinemas around Tokyo. So you don’t have to miss out on the latest hits, either.

Likewise, Indian TV dramas have, in the last few years, begun to creep into the fringes of Japanese TV. With the popularity of some of Bollywood’s movies with the Japanese audience, the drama Porus was the first Indian drama to premiere in Japan in 2018 on Hulu Japan.

Since then, a few choice dramas have been made available with Japanese subtitles on Netflix, including the popular Yeh Ballet and Kapoor and Sons. They may not be the most popular shows in Japan, but the cultural exchange is heartening to see. And yet another reminder of home.

Religion

Statues of Saraswati, Ganesh and Kubera at Daishoin Temple.

Japan is primarily a Shinto and Buddhist country, but it offers some spiritual centers for other faiths, especially in Tokyo. For Hindus, places such as the Shiva Shakti Temple and Ashram in Shinjuku and the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple in Ikebukuro are options for prayer and spiritual guidance.

For Sikhs, there are two Gurudwaras, one in Tokyo and the other in Osaka. The Tokyo Gurudwara is located in Otsuka and offers spiritual services, group prayers, and the traditional practice of langar. This communal kitchen feeds all guests for free. As one of only two Gurudwaras in Japan, both are community centers offering physical and spiritual support when living in Japan, a slice of home abroad.

You can find these temples here:

And there we find the imprint that Indian culture has made upon Japan. Is there anything, in particular, you’ve experienced or want to try on this list? Or perhaps something you’d missed and just learned was closer than you thought? Let us know in the comments!

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