How do you say “Yeah, Mon!” in Nippon? Pass through Harajuku for hot jerky – Jamaica in Japan!

Chinatown, a discount store which carried anything from DVD’s to jeans, used to be on Green Hill and is now on Swan Street in Bridgetown, many Chinese restaurants here like Guangdong in Worthing have genuine Chinese proprietors… So are there any Caribbean outposts in Asia? Yes…

Huh? Yvonne Goldson not only trekked from Jamaica to Japan, she devised a book translating Jamaican patois into Nihon-Go (Japanese language) and has done well in spreading the word of “JamRock” according to TimeOut Tokyo;-

"Patois is the substrata for the stories that are the basis of reggae and the ever- evolving zeitgeist of popular Jamaican culture."

"Patois is the substrata for the stories that are the basis of reggae and the ever- evolving zeitgeist of popular Jamaican culture."

JamRock is the euphemistic hybrid of the “Jam” in Jamaica and the “rock” in the rock-steady rhythms of reggae music, and is how Jamaicans refer to their island nation. ‘It’s what we Jamaicans call the island…when things are going good,’ she says with a wink of the eye and an infectious laugh that fills up the café’s bright space. Goldson, a pioneer member of the Association of Jamaicans in Japan, envisions JamRock Cafe as the home-away-from-home where Tokyoites and Jamaicans can get together to eat proper Jamaican food without having to catch a flight out of Narita Airport.

Yvonne hails from Trelawny, Jamaica (hometown of the world’s fastest sprinter, Usain Bolt), and has lived in Japan for 12 years. She smiles when she speaks in her lilting Caribbean cadence, and possesses the fearless aura of her American stomping ground of California. This combination makes her not only an unflagging representative of her home island, but also the warm heart of her business.

While in Los Angeles, she was listening to reggae music and studying Japanese and realised there appeared to be a similarity between Patois and Japanese;-

Japanese who flock to Jamaica, whether for the Reggae Sunsplash music festival or international development work with The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), find speaking in patois endearing to Jamaicans. Goldson’s book is one of the bridges that’s making patois more accessible to Japanese interested in Jamaican culture, especially the ubiquitous topic: food. The dictionary covers Jamaican food, fruits, beverages, desserts which are on the menu at JamRock Cafe.

Jamaican Patties - "A look at the menu shows that a cross section of Jamaican home-style favourites, even ackee and saltfish (the national dish of Jamaica), are ready to be enjoyed."

Jamaican Patties - "A look at the menu shows that a cross section of Jamaican home-style favourites, even ackee and saltfish (the national dish of Jamaica), are ready to be enjoyed."

People have this idea that all we eat in Jamaica is jerk chicken, but we don’t really make that at home. That’s more of a street food,’ muses Goldson on the reasons why she is focusing more on home-style dishes. A look at the menu shows that a cross section of Jamaican home-style favourites, even ackee and saltfish (the national dish of Jamaica), are ready to be enjoyed.

My favorite from JamRock are their Patties – does anyone recall during the 80’s, there was an eatery called Patties’ Palace which was downstairs of the International Bookstore run by John Wallace? It’s next door to what is now City Centre in Bridgetown, their patties were closest to what Jamaicans do.

The Jamaican chef really believes ignorance is bliss and can be the wind to make your ideas soar;-

"Yvonne Goldson left her post at an international law firm for the kitchen of her new JamRock Cafe – Tokyo’s newest outpost for authentic Jamaican cuisine located in the heart of Harajuku."

"Yvonne Goldson left her post at an international law firm for the kitchen of her new JamRock Cafe – Tokyo’s newest outpost for authentic Jamaican cuisine located in the heart of Harajuku."

Ordering a meal in patois at JamRock Cafe is one of the charms of going there, especially speaking with Kanto, the Japanese server who has a very convincing Jamaican accent. Try saying ‘Mi waan fi nyam nuff’ (I want to eat a lot) and when Goldson’s mouth-watering food arrives to your table it is safe to say ‘Mek we nyam’ (Let’s eat!).
Goldson said her former boss inspired her to start her business after eating her food. She met her head chef, a Rasta man called Twitch, at the popular Jamaican One Love Reggae Festival in Yoyogi Park; the two collaborate on JamRock’s menu and catering.

It is good to be naïve,’ Goldson replies when asked about her advice to Tokyo entrepreneurs. ‘If you think too much about what obstacles you might face, you might talk yourself out of doing it. Just go and do it. Follow your dream.’

2 Responses

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  1. Thank you or Domo.. for this article on Japan!
    Have fun in Japan when you get there – it’s worth it,
    Lynwood

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