Yuichiro Urai/ Marubeni Corporation Tashkent Liaison Office
Located in Central Asia, Uzbekistan has a population of 25 million and is renowned for the production gold and cotton. However, most people would probably associate the country with the Silk Road.
The capital Tashkent was in times past widely known as an oasis, and this is still evident in the verdant streets. It is full of fruits and vegetables, and the bazaar (market) bustles with energy every day. On the other hand, the country has an aspect of a particularly reclusive state as a double land-locked country (that is, a country where people have to cross two national borders to reach the seaside). Only two countries of this kind exist in the world.
Although Japanese are not so familiar with Uzbekistan, this country actually has an extraordinary relationship with Japan. The Navoi Theater located at the center of Tashkent city is the most famous opera and ballet theater in Uzbekistan. The theater was built by Japanese captives who were carted away from the former Manchuria in 1947 after the war. They worked honestly and diligently despite their position as captives, and they seem to have been praised and esteemed as samurai by the locals.
When the great earthquake occurred in 1966 that toppled most of the buildings in the city, only the Navoi Theater escaped unscathed, clearly demonstrating the architectural skills of Japan.
Since then, the country has esteemed Japanese technology and Japanese people, with "Made in Japan" coming to be regarded as the guarantee of a quality product. This is the result of the hardships and painstaking efforts of the Japanese captives who were brought to the country to perform forced labor. As Japanese, we ought not to forget this fact of history.
Incidentally, there are programs devoted to the origin of noodles. Did you happen to hear the name of lagman in one of those programs?
This is the typical cuisine of Uzbekistan that has spread to all over Central Asia. It is like Japanese udon noodle, and is a hotchpotch noodle with meat (mainly mutton) and vegetables in a tomato-based soup. I like this cuisine best of all Uzbekistan food. When you visit Uzbekistan, be sure to taste lagman. Then, you will surely ponder the comparison with Japanese udon noodle and the relationship between the culture of noodles and the Silk Road.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.42 (November, 2007)