Cover Story: Happy Deepavali from Japan

Miss World Japan, Kana Yamaguchi,  in an exclusive interview with Indulge, speaks about her love for Mumbai  street food, masala dosai, and her plans to celebrate Deepavali in Japan!
Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi
Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi

In a delightful convergence of cultures, the city of Chennai welcomed a very special guest — Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi, ahead of the Deepavali festivities. Beyond the glitz and glamour of the beauty pageant world, she embarks on a mission that transcends borders — to popularise Japanese cuisine in India. She has a lofty résumé backing up her credentials as a name to watch out for. The beauty queen is a licensed teacher, model and a TV anchor. She bested 30 other finalists, including her sister, to win the crown. She has embarked on a captivating journey that transcends borders, as she visited the city for an exclusive Japanese food promotion event at Consul-General Taga Masayuki’s residence the other day. Known not only for her striking beauty but also for her commitment to promoting the rich tapestry of Japanese culture, Kana san’s visit was a feast for the senses as she brought flavours and traditions of Japan to the heart of South India, unveiling a world where beauty meets the culinary arts.

The reigning Miss World Japan is collaborating with Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador, Harry Hakuei Kosato, the first Ambassador to be appointed by the Japanese government, to promote Japanese cuisine and Japanese ingredients for the first time in India. Harry has been in India for the last 16 years promoting Japan, especially Japanese ingredients and cuisine through Sushi and More, India’s first and largest multi-city affordable sushi business, and Kikkoman, the 350-year-old plus manufacturer of naturally brewed Honjozo soy sauce from Japan.

Kana san, who was crowned Miss World Japan in September 2022, will represent Japan at the Miss World global pageant scheduled in India in 2024. In an exclusive interview with Indulge, Kana san spoke about her love for Mumbai street food, masala dosai, her favourite Japanese dish, a few must-try dishes other than sushi, how she is looking forward to celebrating Deepavali in Japan, and a lot more in a freewheeling chat.

“Yes, I love, I love, I love food. My favourite Indian dish is masala dosai,” Kana san begins. Before her Chennai sojourn, she happened to visit Mumbai, and tells us enthusiastically that what she enjoyed the most was Mumbai street food. “The chaat at the Soho House Mumbai was so delicious! I also had the opportunity to try South Indian food with the Consul-General of Japan, Taga san; it was an amazing experience. And so yummy,” she tells us.

The Indian curry with its variety of options has bowled her over. “From Chennai, I will be leaving for Delhi and I’m looking forward to enjoying some North Indian food! I’m visiting Bengaluru as well. There is so much diversity and variety when it comes to Indian food; it is mindboggling! I came to know that Deepavali is a big festival in India. Unfortunately, I will be going back to Japan. But now that I know so much about Deepavali festivities and sweets, I will be finding a way to celebrate Deepavali in Japan and try a few Deepavali sweets as well,” she says.

<em>Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi</em>
Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi
<em>Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi</em>
Miss World Japan Kana Yamaguchi

We ask her to suggest one dish other than sushi, which she thinks we should try out and she says, “It is dango or Japanese dumpling, which is a dessert made from rice flour mixed with uruchi rice flour and glutinous rice flour. You must definitely try this.”

Kana san believes there is a lot of cultural exchange that happens over food. “I feel it is impossible to connect with people at a deeper level without sharing food. The best conversations happen over food. I have gone across India — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru — and made so many friends over good food,” she tells us.

Making a comparison between Japanese and Indian cooking, she says, Japanese food is a lot simpler. “Take for instance, sashimi sliced raw fish. It is just a piece of sliced fish and you enjoy it with Kikkoman soy sauce and a hint of wasabi. How simple is that? So, by simplifying the deeper, more elaborate Indian dishes with Japanese sensibilities, a unique fusion can be achieved. As for ingredients, there are so many in Japan. For example, two very simple but amazing ingredients — Ishimaru Sanuki Udon and Kikkoman Soy Sauce — can be used to create a yummy dish. These ingredients can be used in Indian and Chinese cuisines (India’s version of Chinese food), and make a unique and yummy dish without much effort.” 

During her food promotion programme, what she has been most intrigued by is the Indian-Japanese fusion dish that she tasted at Consul-General Taga’s residence — Rasam with Kikkoman soy sauce! “It was so delicious! Kikkoman soy sauce, which is pure and natural, added a distinct umami flavour to the dish. I enjoyed Ishimaru Sanuki Udon with Rasam Kikkoman Soy Sauce broth. It tasted divine!” she says.

Yamaguchi says Japan has a lot to learn from India, and India could also benefit from a deeper understanding of Japanese food and ingredients. As someone who represents both Japanese culture and cuisine, what’s her approach to maintaining a balanced and healthy diet? “Simply eating lots of vegetables and fruits,” she signs off.

Unveiling Miss Japan’s favourite dish

Yakitori — chicken skewers prepared with Kikkoman Soy Sauce; 

Shabu Shabu — hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces including Japanese Sesame dressing (ground roasted sesame seeds, mayo, rice vinegar, and Kikkoman soy sauce) and Ponzu sauce (Kikkoman soy sauce with citrus juice of sudachi, yuzu, and kabosu and vinegar, sugar or mirin, and dashi). 

Sukiyaki — meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of Kikkoman soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.

Related Stories

No stories found.