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A taste of Japan in the heart of Da Nang

Update: March, 20/2012 - 09:23


Home from home: Most of the coffee shop's clients are young Vietnamese, who come here to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, and of course sample the cultinary delights of the country.¬ VNS Photos Do Truong

Sakura Friends cafe

Address: 125, Hoang Hoa Tham street, Hai Chau District

Tel: 0511-3752446

Hours: 7am-9am

Prices: VND20,000-40,000

Comment: a peaceful, friendly space, offering a variety of traditiional Japanese dishes.

Sakura Friends cafe was established a year ago by four members of the Japanese Democratic Women's Association to give disadvantaged children temporary work and to promote Japanese culture in the city. Do Truong reports.Sakura Friends cafe has long been a familiar address for admirers of Japanese culture.

The coffee shop, located at 125 Hoang Hoa Tham Street in central Da Nang City was established one year ago by four members of the Japanese Democratic Women's Association, says the cafe's co-founder Takeuchi Midori.

The 64-year-old Japanese woman says that her association has done charity work at the Village of Hope in Da Nang since 1995, giving children there an opportunity to learn about culture and crafts.

"The idea to open the coffee shop was born out of a desire to supply the Village of Hope children with temporary jobs after leaving the foundation. We also wanted to build a venue for Viet Nam-Japan cultural exchange in the city," Midori says.

When clients step into the coffee shop, they feel as though they have escaped the noise of the street as well as the stresses of daily life. Sakura Friends welcomes clients with a Japanese garden, which includes a small lake, green trees and a bridge.

The interior is designed in traditional Japanese style, decorated with wood, white lanterns, calligraphy, and bookshelves with information on the land of the cherry blossoms. Customers can also enjoy the melodious sounds of Japanese traditional songs.

The owner says her shop serves food and beverages of both Viet Nam and Japan. "Food here is mainly home-style dishes eaten by Japanese families, at half the price of other Japanese restaurants, such as korroke (VND30.000), tonkatsu (VND35.000), sushi (VND30.000) and butaniku no shouga yaki (VND35.000). We import a lot of the raw ingredients from Japan," she says.

Since most of her staff members are village children who don't speak Japanese, "at first they found it difficult to make Japanese dishes".

"I took them to some of the city's Japanese restaurants to learn how to cook and now everything is very good," she says.

"We organise a small party for the Village of Hope children here monthly to give them a family atmosphere," Midori says.

She says there are more than 60 clients who come here everyday, including a large number of Vietnamese youths. "They come to study our culture, to speak Japanese with everyone or to find a peaceful space," she says.

Nguyen Thu Hang, a 21-year-old student at Da Nang University of Foreign Language, says she and her friends often come here on weekends to speak Japanese.


Just desserts: Traditional Japanese doremon cake is served as a dessert.
Clean and lean: Tonkatsu (butter-fried pork) is typically served with a tomato salad.
"Sakura Friends is really a good environment for foreign language students like us. Midori is very friendly and hospitable, and she helps us a lot with Japanese. Sometimes when we come we even get the chance to take part in Japanese cultural activities," Hang says.

Midori says she will never forget the warm sentiments of Vietnamese people in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake and tsunami last March.

"We organised an exchange night here after the disaster and many Vietnameses came to share in our loss both in substance and spirit," she says.

Midori says there are about 120 Japanese living in the city. "We have long thought of Da Nang as our second homeland since the local people are very kind-hearted and truthful," she says.

According to Midori, Viet Nam-Japan cultural programmes are held here every month with many activities such as Japanese doll-making, lessons on the 16-chord zither and monochord, as well as Vietnamese cooking classes. The Japanese festivals of Hina Matsuri, Koinobori and Tanabata are also held at the coffee shop.

She says that the coffee shop has been written up in the Viet Nam Tourism Guide published in Japan, so she often advises new Japanese arrivals and supplies them with necessary information about the city."

Midori says that she intends to extend the coffee shop and turn it into a space for Vietnamese-Japanese cultural exchange. — VNS

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