A Kobe neighborhood densely populated with Korean residents is now touting itself as the “town of kimchi,” having created brochures that have proved more popular than expected.
The city’s Nagata Ward published 1,000 brochures in November detailing its Korean-related history and mapping the locations of local kimchi shops and eateries.
The brochures are a part of the ward’s attempt to energize the community and raise awareness of its intercultural demographics, explained Kenji Maeda, a ward official in charge of the project.
Made available in the ward office and shops, they vanished in just a month, Maeda said. To keep up with demand, he said the ward wants to publish another 3,000 copies in Japanese and 1,000 in Korean in the coming few months.
The ward picked kimchi as a central theme for the brochures because the Korean dish has now been greatly localized to better fit Japanese people’s tastes and thus symbolizes a positive affinity between the two cultures, Maeda said.
“Even Korean visitors from outside are sometimes surprised to discover what the kimchi here tastes like,” he said, describing the reaction as indicative of how “well-adapted” ethnic Korean residents have become.
Nagata Ward underwent rapid industrialization in the early 1900s. The numerous small factories drew thousands of laborers, including Koreans.
The industrialization continued to gain momentum, culminating after World War II with the production of “chemical shoes,” footwear made of rubber mixed with plastics, including vinyl chloride. The ward is the leading area in Japan for manufacturing the shoes, and the Korean residents have traditionally been a big part of the industry, Maeda said.
The kimchi brochures also drew online gripes. Users of the popular 2channel forum were critical, with some calling the move “disgusting” and “harmful to the (ward’s) reputation.”
Makoto Sakurai, head of the far-right organization Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Society of Citizens against Granting Privileges to Koreans in Japan), slammed the brochure on Twitter on Tuesday as “a pathetic cry of inferior ethnic tribes who have nothing other than kimchi to boast of.”