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Raw recruit Yoshimi puts taste of Japan on the menu



Yoshimi Hayakawa making sushi rice in a sushi oke (wooden bowl). “It’s simple, but there’s a lot of work. New chefs here are surprised that we do preparation for the preparation,” says Yoshimi of the process involved in setting up the kitchen every day. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle –  Judy Murphy talks to a woman who came to Galway to learn English and introduced the city to delights of sushi

The omens weren’t good when Yoshimi Hayakawa arrived in Ireland from Japan in 2001, having come here to study English. Her ultimate destination was Galway but she flew in to Dublin, unaware that on the day she landed, a major soccer match was taking place.

Not having pre-booked accommodation, Yoshimi couldn’t find a bed. Initially, she stayed in the bus station and, when it closed, she spent hours wandering the streets with her backpack, looking for a hostel and encountering lots of drunken Irish people.

Once she’d lived here for a while, Yoshimi realised drunken Irish people were no threat, but coming from Japan, where public drunkenness is not the norm, she was terrified.

“I decided I’d leave soon,” she recalls with a laugh. But she didn’t.

Fifteen years on, Yoshimi has become part of the fabric of Galway City, where she runs the popular Wa Café restaurant on New Dock Street. It specialises in the food of her native country mostly using ingredients from Galway. And, having introduced Irish diners to the delights of Japanese dishes, Yoshimi has also taken to training Irish chefs in Japan’s specialised method of preparing and cooking food.

Wa Café, near the Docks, is a small, simply decorated space that seats about 20 and also offers a take-out service. A blackboard behind the counter informs customers of the daily sushi specials which are prepared in the kitchen behind.

As we sample an elderflower and ginger cordial prepared by Patrick Philips, one of her Irish chefs, Yoshimi explains that coming to Ireland opened up possibilities that she could never have dreamed of in Japan.

Working with a company that manufactured vinegar and other condiments she sold sushi products to supermarkets, “but never dreamed I would become a sushi chef”.

That certainly wasn’t her intention when she came to Galway.

“I’d planned to travel around Europe. The EU was expanding and the euro had just come in and I wanted to witness it,” she explains. “But before that, I came to Ireland.”

Yoshimi admits now that she didn’t know much about Ireland and could as easily have been going to Iceland!

But when she came to Galway and met people from France, Italy, Spain and other parts of the EU, everything changed.

“I realised I didn’t need to travel, because everybody was here.”

She loved Galway from the beginning.

“After a month, I wanted to open a Japanese restaurant here. I was joking, but only half joking,” she recalls.

Yoshimi was a student at the Galway Language School, staying with a host family. Her host, Barbara McKeown, encouraged her to cook Japanese food and invite her fellow students around for dinner.

These students, who came from all over Europe, loved Yoshimi’s food and the more they sampled it, they more they encouraged her to open her own restaurant.

Yoshimi, who had learned cooking from her mother, was surprised at this – becoming a professional chef in Japan requires many years of training, so it wasn’t something she’d ever considered.

Japanese food was a novelty for many of her friends in the early 2000s, she explains. “Even French people I met hadn’t tasted it.”

So she began to give the idea of a restaurant serious consideration.

In her early days, cooking for friends, she did try out a few authentic recipes, such as monkfish liver, but “it was too adventurous”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.


Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service



The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.


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Park fun to mark Africa Day



Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’



At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon


A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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