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.
Work set to start next year on €60m student accommodation scheme
More than 600 new student bed spaces will come on stream at NUIG in time for the start of the semester in September 2022 – bringing welcome relief to the high demand in the student housing market.
The university this week invited tenders for the design and construction contract to develop a new apartment complex at Corrib Village, the existing student accommodation village.
The estimated value of the contract is €60 million, excluding VAT, and its duration is for 38 months.
The plan is to develop a “commercially viable, modern, appealing and environmentally friendly student accommodation on campus”.
According to the tenders, it will be delivered on a phased basis.
The first phase requires immediate fit-out on July 1, 2021 for the start of the term that September. The second phase will be required for immediate fit-out on the June 1, 2022 to allow for adequate setup in advance of the new semester in September 2022.
The greenfield site for the development is north of the existing Corrib Village, between the Bioscience Research Building and the Park and Ride facility.
It will have 674 bed spaces in 125 apartments, in clusters of four to six en suite bedrooms with a communal living area in each apartment.
There will also be more communal areas, and facilities, service rooms, refuse storage and covered cycling storage facilities. It will be built in four blocks, with one block ranging from four to eight storeys tall, two blocks six storeys tall, and the remaining block four storeys.
The plan is for the development of courtyards, pedestrian access, vehicular access and drop-off and parking facilities for the less mobile. Vehicular access is through the existing Corrib Village access road.
The deadline for submission of interest in the tender is November 1, with a contractor to be appointed in the new year.
Galway City Council records high rate of planning appeals
Galway City Council had one of the highest rates of appealed planning decisions in the country last year, according to a new report from An Bord Pleanála.
According to the Board’s Annual Report for 2018, there were 378 planning decisions made last year by the City Council.
Of these, 42 were appealed (11.1%), which was the fourth-highest rate of challenged decisions in the country.
The highest rate was in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area with 15.9% of decisions appealed; Dublin City Council at 15.4% and Cork City Council at 12.6%.
The report also shows that in Galway City, there were 37 decisions made by the Board last year – 12 Council decisions were upheld, 16 had planning conditions varied and nine were overturned.
The 42 appeals lodged represented 2.7% of all appeals nationally.
Meanwhile, more than one third of rulings by An Bord Pleanala last year on appeals in County Galway resulted in the Council’s decision being overturned.
The Board’s report shows that 21 decisions from the County Council were overturned.
In 2018, the County Council made 1,626 planning decisions – 81 of these were appealed (5%), which equated to 4% of all local authority planning decisions nationally which were appealed.
Decisions were reached on 60 cases (there may have been a carry-over of decisions pending from 2017, and some from 2018 may not have been made until this year).
A breakdown of the decided cases shows that 14 had the local authority decisions upheld; 25 had decisions varied and 21 had decisions overturned.
According to the Board, appeals were dealt with in an average of 19.5 weeks last year, down from 23.3 weeks recorded in 2017. The Board has an objective of deciding appeals within 18 weeks.
Nationally, there were 28,785 planning decisions, of which 2,028 were appealed (a rate of 7%). A total of 1,806 decisions were reached, of which 434 were upheld, 957 had conditions varied and 415 overturned.
Bus pervert facing jail term
A 52-year-old man who asked a female passenger on a bus to perform a sex act on him, and then proceeded to masturbate during the journey, has been told he may face a prison sentence.
Eamon McCoy of 20 Beachmount Road, Highfield Park, appeared before Athlone District Court.
BY ADRIAN CUSACK
He entered a guilty plea to a charge of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature during a bus journey on the M6 at Ardagowna, Athlone, on February 15 last.
Outlining the details of the incident, Sergeant Paul McNally said Gardai received a complaint from a woman at 2.15pm on that date. She told them that she was on a bus heading towards Galway when a male passenger asked her to perform oral sex. He then proceeded to masturbate under his clothing.
The woman took a photo of the man, McCoy, on her phone and contacted the Gardai.
Solicitor Dara Hayden, representing McCoy, said his client was “reluctantly” entering a guilty plea to the charge, as “he tells me that he doesn’t recall the incident” and was “appalled” by the details that were outlined. He said the defendant had bipolar disorder and was on a lot of medication at the time of the offence.
McCoy, who wore a sports headband and dark glasses during the hearing, had worked as a nurse’s aide in an old folks’ home up until 15 or 20 years ago, but he had not worked since then and was on disability benefit, his solicitor said.
Judge Seamus Hughes asked McCoy why he had been travelling on the bus on the date of the incident, and he replied that he was heading back to Galway from Dublin airport.
The judge asked him why he had been in the airport, and whether he had been returning from a trip overseas, but McCoy said he hadn’t.
“I go up [to the airport] from time to time . . . I just went up there for the day,” he said.
Judge Hughes said that, as a first step, he wanted to see McCoy come up with “€2,000, payable in cash, for the girl.”
Mr Hayden replied that his client would find it very difficult to come up with that sum of money, and he was willing to engage in preventative measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“Don’t tempt me to say it,” replied the judge. “I know in some countries what the preventative measure would be.”
The judge said he regarded McCoy as “a very creepy type of character” who had said something “extremely vulgar” to the female passenger.
“All of the signs point to this having been caused by a mental health issue,” replied Mr Hayden, but the judge said this was pure speculation on the solicitor’s part.
Mr Hayden asked for some time to come up with a medical report on his client, and Judge Hughes agreed to adjourn the case for two months.
The judge said he wanted to see a medical explanation for how any mental illness McCoy might have would have caused him to behave the way he did on the bus.
He also said he wanted assurances that the defendant wouldn’t do this “creepy, filthy, dirty, rotten thing again.”
Adjourning the case to December 11 next, Judge Hughes said he would deal with the issues of compensation and custodial sentence length on that date.