Former envoy to open Afghan-style restaurant

The family of a former Afghan ambassador to Japan will open an Afghan restaurant in Yotsukaido, Chiba Prefecture, on Sunday after a decade of struggle during which they were reduced to refugees as a result of the civil war in their homeland.

Hassani Mohammad Asif, 52, who lives in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, originally arrived in Japan in 1992 as the Afghan ambassador under the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Asif lost his job as the civil war intensified in Afghanistan.

An ethnic Hazara, a minority group in Afghanistan, Asif feared persecution by the new Afghan regime after Rabbani lost power in 1996. He applied for refugee status in Japan and was subsequently granted a special residency permit by the Japanese government.

With his wife and seven children, Asif struggled to adapt to his new way of life in Japan.

The Asifs eventually decided to permanently reside in Japan after it became apparent that political volatility in Afghanistan will continue for the foreseeable future, even after the collapse of the Taliban regime last December.

Asif’s 23-year-old son suggested that the family open a restaurant and contributed most of his savings from his job as a plumber.

The Asifs did most of the renovation of the rented property by themselves with support from a group of Japanese friends in Misato.

Satoru Asai, the 38-year-old owner of a dairy business also living in Misato, got to know the Asifs through the Internet.

Asai helped the Asifs find the property for the restaurant — named Bamiyan — and has been handing out advertising leaflets.

Often treated to home-cooked Afghan meals by the Asifs, Asai spread the word about the high quality of Afghan cuisine, which appeals to the Japanese palate.

Asif says that even though he is not sure whether the Japanese will like Afghan cuisine, he hopes to provide a gateway of understanding about Afghanistan through Bamiyan, one of the few Afghan restaurants in Japan.