Ganbaro Ukraine! Help Make a Better Tomorrow for Refugees in Japan
As families who have fled Ukraine work hard to adjust to life in Japan, democracies must unite to address Russia's aggression and other critical issues.
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What can we do to help refugees in Japan who have fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
The JAPAN Forward team was discussing this when we learned that a Ukrainian restaurant had opened in Japan to help refugees. We decided to try their lunch right away.
Restaurant Smachnogo is on the second floor of a building in Shinbashi, Tokyo. "Smachnogo" means "enjoy your meal" in Ukrainian. Entering the restaurant, we were welcomed by a woman who had fled the war in Ukraine.
Inside the stylish interior, the Ukrainian flag of light blue and yellow adorned the wall. Interestingly, Smachnogo serves Ukrainian-Japanese fusion cuisine, like borscht with Japanese broth and Kyiv-style cutlet. They were all delicious but light on the palate.
After lunch, I spoke with some of the Ukrainian women who work at the restaurant. They were living in Japan with their children as refugees, while their husbands were fighting in Ukraine. Unable to return home, they were grateful to the restaurant's founder, Takane Ezoe, for providing them with work.
Adjusting to Life in Japan
I wondered if we could rent the restaurant for a special event where the women and their children could meet the JAPAN Forward team and supporters. Unfortunately, the manager said that it would be too difficult to arrange.
As the war drags on, the Ukrainian children are learning to adjust to life in Japan and have a jam-packed schedule. During the day, they go to school to learn Japanese. In the evening, they attend online classes at Ukrainian schools. It was simply too difficult to accommodate all of our schedules.
After much deliberation, we decided to ask our supporters to buy mugs made from used coffee beans and donate the proceeds to the children. Some of our supporter companies immediately asked to buy them in bulk.
The JAPAN Forward team member who organized this project said, "We want to cherish these new relationships by supporting the mothers and their children who are working so hard. We also want to support companies that are finding ways to utilize waste materials to create a sustainable society. It's important to convey our voice, even in a small way."
The coffee bean mugs are inscribed with a message of encouragement from the JAPAN Forward team: "Ganbaro Ukraine [you can do it, Ukraine]."
This is an excerpt of the Tokyo Outlook column by JAPAN Forward Editor in Chief, Yasuo Naito, first published on JAPAN Forward on May 8, 2023. You can read the full article here.
Our Ganbaro Ukraine mugs are available now!
It can hold 370 ml and comes with a small spoon. The price is ¥1000 JPY (including tax) and another ¥1000 JPY for delivery. Proceeds will go to 14 Ukrainian refugees working at Smachnogo. For orders and inquiries, please email email@example.com.
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