Do you know what country ramen comes from? From Japan? No. The Ramen Museum in Yokohama Harbor says Ramen, a noodle soup, became popular in Japan with the arrival of Chinese emigrants in the late 19th century. They brought it with them as their favorite food. Food that satisfies. Folk food. Cheap food. Yes, the home of strong meat broth with wheat noodles and roasted pork chashu is in China, not Japan. And it is not without interest that the ramen soup arrived to Miyabi a way via Korea, more precisely through the owner of the ramen restaurant Kahou. Mrs. Yoshie Oshima, after whom our annual Yoshie Ramen Days festival in Miyabi is named, lives in Kyoto and her name is typically Japanese, but her parents came from Korea. Yoshie carries her Korean identity with her a bit like a burden. She told me that she always felt like a second-class citizen in Kyoto. But Yoshie is not ashamed of her origins. The opposite is true – she turned it into her strength. In order to send her only son to law school, she decided to open a bistro and cook what she was confident in and loved best. It was ramen, because ramen is indeed very popular dish in Japan. But it was first Chinese food, then Korean, and only then Japanese. Mrs. Yoshie made her dream come true. Her son graduated successfully and what’s more, her restaurant prospered and became known abroad. It happened that the Oshimas and their son Luka, Lukáš, were members of the mayor’s delegation from Kyoto, who came to Prague in 1996 to sign a partnership agreement between the city Kyoto and Prague. Japanese scholar and Buddhist monk Robin Shóen Heřman even called Mrs. Yoshie the patron saint of Czech artists, especially from the Czech philharmonic orchestra. Here is an excerpt from his text, which he wrote for the Czech-Japanese Association CJS, when the book The Window to the Centuries of Czech-Japanese Relations was formed. He wrote about Mr. Kazuo Ikeda, lover of the Czech classic music. The small bistro, where Mr. and Mrs. Oshima prepares their original ramen noodle dish becomes the important spot for the Czech musicians in Kyoto and neighboring places, who became short of money or desired to eat something at least a bit familiar, and gradually the clientele is widened and widened.(by the way, in 2005 during their stay in Kyoto, the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis paid for their ramen bills with singing).And so, when Ikeda informs the Óshimas that a partnership between Kyoto and Prague has been concluded and that he himself goes to Prague together with the mayor as an official documentary filmmaker (at that time he already runs the cultural news section at Kyoto TV KBS), the Óshimas spontaneously suggest that they like to join too and that they would bring to Prague as a gift to the people of Prague 100 servings of noodles and cook their ramen and give it for free. Darja Kawasumi, who has recently opened her Miyabi restaurant, likes the idea and agrees to work out this together. Through this ramen project she becomes close to the Oshimas to the extend that her son Vítek goes to Kyoto and trains in Kahou how to make ramen. Thanks to this the Yoshie Ramen Days in Miyabi becomes an annual commemoration of the anniversary of the Kyoto-Prague partnership and its authentic fulfillment – and, of course it celebrates also the unique personalities of the Óshima family. Unfortunately, the bistro finally closed its door a few years ago. “
Mrs. Yoshie Oshima, owner and chef of the now closed Ramen Noodle Bistro in Kyoto, the patron of Czech artists.
Too bad that the Kahou restaurant no longer exists. You could find it in the middle of ancient temples in a city where there are still a lot of old shops and where you can buy miso, tofu or tsukemono directly from the manufacturer, who typically lives in the same house. The walls of Kahou bistro were covered with newspaper clippings about the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra or the Japanese restaurant Miyabi in Prague. It was surprising to see it when you came in. It pleased. The restaurant had only five seats right at the counter, on the opposite side of which was the cooking place. There were large pots with broth and another with hot water in which portions of noodles were prepared. There was also an iron plate on which the gyoza were made. Nothing else but ramen and gyoza was served in Kahou. Customers received also water or warm green tea. Everything was very simple. Plane. Only a large bowl of candies was a bit fancy. While eating, a neighbor, a schoolboy, or a schoolgirl peeked their heads through the door curtain noren, and Mrs. Oshima greeted them and offered candy. She loudly declared that her restaurant was serving vitamin Ai, which is a word for love in Japanese, and her joy and optimism was contagious and passed on to all who stopped. To be able to make living, the husband Óshima had a second job in the evening collecting used wooden chopsticks for recycling. Mrs. Oshima is a strong Christian believer and has honestly taken tithes to the church throughout her business. She went to Catholic Mass every day. She was sitting on the church bench before six, her bike parked in front of the church. Then she went swimming to the pool and from there she biked to her favorite cafe on Teramachi Street for toast and coffee. When I arrived in Kyoto unannounced, I knew I would catch her there between eight and nine. Then she hurried to Kahou. Her husband had been preparing the broth and so since early morning, then they took turns for a while so that he can rest and together opened right at eleven. The same ritual every day. For decades. The only days they closed the door of their Kahou bistro was when they went to Prague to Miyabi to cook ramen for the people of Prague.
But before they left for Prague, they kept telling all their Kahou guests and neighbors about their journey and mission for at least a month. Hearing it people brought gifts for the people of Prague. Small notebooks, small purses, small talismans for good health and of course something for children. We then put all this on the bar counter in Miyabi and the guests who came to eat ramen and gyoza could take what they liked. Mrs. Oshima ran between the kitchen and the dining place – she was everywhere. General and angel in one person. And what we earned in Miyabi that day, Mrs. Oshima carried as a tithe to the church of St. Ignatius on Charles Square. When Yoshie said she was cooking vitamin Ai, it really was so. I always wanted to be like her. I have always wanted Miyabi chefs to cook vitamin Ai, to love guests and to like to cook for them. We do not have the same appeal and naturel like Mrs. Yoshie, but I believe that all Miyabi chefs and attendants, all of us who create Miyabi, take our service in the same way as we saw Mrs. Oshima did. The name Oshima (Oushima) means Great (ou) and Island (shima). So, she is our Mrs. Big Island. I wish there are around a lot of big people like Mrs. Yoshie Oshima. Yoshie san, thank you! We wish you all the best for your birthday – you are now eighty!