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Nakamuraya’s Curry: a Curry Born of The Indian Revolution

Nakamuraya (中村屋) is a company that sells curry, Chinese steamed buns, and bread. Their curry is similar to Indian style curry and is different from the common curry eaten in Japan. Nakamuraya’s curry is popular in Japan for its authentic taste.

This Indian style curry was brought to Nakamuraya by Rash Behari Bose, an Indian man with an important historical background.

Rash Behari Bose was born in Bengal region in 1886. At that time, India was under British rule. He was raised by his mother in his uncle’s house in Chandemagor, India, later relocating to Calcutta. Due to the demands of his father’s business, Bose and his family eventually returned to his uncle’s house. Because of his complicated family background, he felt a great deal of sadness, loneliness, and resentment, which only strengthened the seeds of revolution within him.

When he was 15 years old, he read a book about the Indian Rebellion, which led him to decide to become a soldier in the Indian military. However, his application to join the military was declined due to the military’s claim that Bengalis were not suitable as military personnel due to their physicial characteristics. He was forced to work in the chemistry department of a forest research institution by his father. Incidentally, this job was very advantageous since it enabled him to have access to chemicals which could be used for making bombs.

In 1914, Bose’s involvement in the plan to bomb a government official in 1912 was discovered by the police. He planned an attack in Lahore, Pakistan in 1915, but it failed due to a report by a member of his group to the police. He was marked as a suspect by the police. As the search for Bose intensified, he decided to flee to Japan.  While he was making his final arrangements, he heard news that the poet and Nobel Laureate from Bengal, Rabindaranath Tagore, was planning to visit Japan. Taking advantage of the situation, he pretended to be Tagore’s relative who came to Japan to research for Tagore’s journey to Japan.

In June, 1915, Bose landed on Kobe in Japan and then went to Tokyo. However, he was soon discovered by a British official. As a result, the Japanese governement ordered him to leave Japan because of Japan’s alliance with the British Empire.

Bose kept running away from the Japanese authorities and found a safe haven at Nakamuraya, which was a bakery in Tokyo at that time. Bose cooked Indian curry for the owner of Nakamuraya as a token of gratitutde for harboring him. The owner found that the curry was so tasty, that when he opened Nakamuraya restaurant in 1927, he started serving Indian curry whose recipe was taught to the owner of Nakamuraya by Bose.

As well as the owner of Nakamuraya and his wife, it was their daughter, Toshiko who supported Bose emotionally during his fugitive life. Toshiko and Bose soon fell in love with one anohter and married in secret. In 1918, as WWI ended, persecution against Bose by the British ended as well.  In 1919, Toshiko died of pneumonia at the age of 26.

Bose continued to work towards the independence of India, and died in 1947, two before the independence of India.
The Indian curry brought to Nakamuraya by Bose has continued to be sold and served at Nakamuraya’s restaurant. Nakamuraya calls it Indian curry with the taste of romance and revolution; it remains one of the most popular items in Nakamuraya to this day.

From June 12th to September 30th, 2017  Nakamuraya has put up a large billboard saying “ありがとう” at the top of a building  “ありがとう” is a Japanese word that means, “thank you”, and pronounced as arigato. This is a part of their campaign to be thankful for India and to celebrate the 90th anniversary since they started selling their original Indian type curry. The billboard is also intended to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cultural Agreement between the two countries that came to be in 1957. In addition, 2017 has been a year of friendly cultural exchanges between Japan and India as the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi came to Japan in November of 2016 and agreed with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to focus heavily on Japan-India relations and promote exchange in many areas such as holding related events in both countries

This article was updated on February 10th, 2018.

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