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Sonoko Kiuchi: Common feature between Kyrgyzstan and Japan – eating noodles

Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Photo Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Japanese Sonoko Kiuchi came to Bishkek recently. She learned about Kyrgyzstan from her mother, who once visited the republic as a tourist. And then she had a mission to go to the KR as a UN volunteer.

Before that, Sonoko worked in Jerusalem, the occupied territory of Palestine and Iran.

Kyrgyzstan is the first Central Asian country for me. I decided to come Kyrgyzstan for the work and it came by chance. But, I was told by my mother who visited once for hiking tourism about the beauty of the nature and people’s life style which associate Japanese with nomadic nostalgic life. So, it wasn’t difficult to come here.

Sonoko Kiuchi

— What surprises you in Bishkek?

Bishkek has a mixed ambience of modern and Soviet-union style for my eyes. I did not have particular image towards Kyrgyzstan except nomadic tradition so that I was surprised by the developed city which are represented by modern cafes and shopping centers in Bishkek. So is westernized style of youth walking on the street. I’m thrilled to visit other cities to explore new surprise from now on.

Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Photo Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi

— What reminds you of your hometown in Bishkek?

The most common feature between Kyrgyzstan and Japan is eating noodles! Japanese love to eat noodles such as ramen and I find that there are wide varieties of noodle dishes in Kyrgyzstan as well. In addition, tea is another example of similarities in food.

Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Photo Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi

What’s more, it is definitely appearance! Kyrgyz, especially young people in Bishkek wearing the latest clothing, and Japanese look alike. It seems that I look like Kyrgyz and it is not distinguishable; for instance, I was asked of direction on the street from a local on my 2nd day in Bishkek.

— What do you miss in Bishkek/Kyrgyzstan?

I miss my old friends and family. For other things, only a month passed and it is too soon to tell. As time goes on I will make friends here and I hope feeling of missing will be cured.

— What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

My favorite place in Bishkek is my apartment. It is about 40 to 50 years old and was residence of Soviet-union elites. Accordingly, it is strongly build with wooden floors. I like it because of Soviet-union style which is very new for a person like me from Japan.

Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Photo Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi

Another favorite place is Toktogul Street because I can find nice cafes as well as good Kyrgyz restaurants along it. I enjoy rambling the street in the evening to find new shops which intrigue me.

— What do you like in the national cuisine?

Basically all national cuisine suits my taste. If I have to choose one, I like lagman a lot. There is a similar dish in Japan although there is difference in flavoring and use of spices.

Sonoko Kiuchi

— What do you afraid even to taste?

Nothing! I would like to try everything that Kyrgyz local eat. I have already tried horse meat with its fat, which was tasty.

— What has fascinated you in close acquaintance with the local population?

I am fascinated with the way local people use two languages. Most Kyrgyz I know speak both Russian and Kyrgyz fluently and easily switch them depending on to whom they talk and occasion. It seems that boundary of the two languages is blur for them.

Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi
Photo Courtesy of Sonoko Kiuchi

One of my colleagues, for instance, talks to his parents in Kyrgyz, but talks to his own family in Russian. I like to observe perception towards language among Kyrgyz. I think this is very interesting because the same situation usually never happen in Japan in which only one national language is spoken.

— And what disappointed?

Since I arrived here in late August, I missed the timing to go hiking and staying in Yurt(a traditional tent). Well, I went lake swimming, but I wanted to experience more and more. That is only disappointment so far.