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The Armenian Who Invented the Japanese Sweet Bun

October 3, 2019
The Armenian Mirror-Spectator
By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

TOKYO — Wheat bread was introduced for the first time to the rice-eating Japanese people in the 16th century by Portuguese missionaries. Because of Japan’s complete isolation from the world, the wheat culture remained unknown until the middle of the 19th century. Over the next century, the Japanese began to open up to the world and try different cultures, including food culture.

After World War I, one of Japan’s most influential and wealthy people, Okura Kihachiro, who was a representative of Okura guni major financial institution and founder of the Tokyo University of Economics, came to Harbin, China, specifically to seek out a skilled baker from Russia whose fame had reached Japan. Kihachiro asked him to move to Japan on favorable terms, and the baker agreed. When in Japan, he was able to create the sweet bun melonpan that is widespread in Japan today…

The baker’s name was Hovhannes (Ivan) Ghevenian Sagoyan. Little is known about him. Born in 1888 in Karin (Erzurum), he probably moved to Moscow at an early age, where he became the personal baker of the Romanov house. The Russian royal family loved the assortment of breads Sagoyan made, which he based on French and Viennese baked goods. After the revolution of 1917 Sagoyan escaped to China and settled in Harbin and became the baker of the New Harbin Hotel.

Full article: https://mirrorspectator.com/2019/10/03/the-armenian-who-invented-the-japanese-sweet-bun/


By Marianna Grigoryan ArmeniaNow Reporter

Every time Asya Harutyunyan makes a business trip to Japan she never forgets to take grape leaves with her.

In the land of the rising sun, a Japanese woman, Mika Ohira, takes the sun-kissed grape leaves and turns them into the famous Armenian dolma.

Japan may be thousands of kilometers from Armenia and even further away in terms of culture and philosophy. But Asya jokes that Mika makes dolma more often than Armenians do.

"Many meals in our cuisine are made of boiled vegetables and meat, and maybe that is the reason I loved the Armenian grape leave-wrapped dolma," says Mika.

Ohira learnt to make dolma from Asya when she visited Armenia as a tourist. Harutyunyan, 30, is president of the "Asya Ararat" tourism agency, which specializes in introducing these two ancient cultures to each other.

An expert in Japan and the Japanese language, Harutyunyan is a translator by profession and says she opened a tourism agency only by accident in 2002.

"For three and half years I studied in the university of the former capital and one of the oldest towns of Japan, Kyoto. I was always an admirer of Japan, the Japanese language and music even before I went there," says Asya, whose room is filled with the sounds of Japanese music and the walls are decorated with artifacts reflecting Japanese culture.

Asya says that after completing her studies and returning to Armenia she continues to keep links with her friends in Japan, who remain close to her heart. Once when they visited Armenia as tourists, they asked her to take them sightseeing; Asya showed them Garni and Geghard and told them the history of these Armenian monuments.

"I then learnt that the next day they went to the same places with their tour group as set out in their program but the guide gave such poor information that my friends told the other Japanese the things that I had told them the day before," says Asya. "After that my friends advised me to open my own agency and promised to become my first clients."

Harutyunyan says that, although she lacked financial means, she took her friends' advice and registered her tourism agency soon after with a focus on connections between Japan and Armenia.

"Before that people from Japan visited Armenia only on an inter-governmental level. Armenia wasn't seen by Japanese as a country for tourism," says Asya.

The specialist of Japan says her friends and acquaintances are beginning to give her customers, paying attention to her knowledge and understanding of the culture of communicating with the Japanese.

"Our cultures and manners are very different," says Asya. "If a Japanese person suddenly sneezes, which is considered impolite for them, the Armenian "Bless you!" is doubly inappropriate and impolite. Such important details I learnt while in Japan. Being aware of Japanese manners, I try here to present Armenia to them with all its look and charm."

Mika Ohira says she heard about Armenia for the first time in 1975 at high school as part of lessons about the Soviet Union. She became acquainted with Asya through the internet, where she learned about her tourist activities, and decided to fulfill a long-held dream to visit the Caucasus region and Armenia.

"I am confident today Armenia is more interesting in terms of tourism than Russia for instance. I think Armenia is the country with the best reputation among the CIS countries, besides it is also safe and everything is quite cheap which is no less important," says Mika.

Ohira says Armenians have impressed her with their friendliness. Another tourist from Japan, Hiraoka Hirako, heard about Armenia for the first time while traveling in Iran.

"We went to an Armenian village in Iran that interested me very much. When I came back from my trip I began collecting information about Armenia on the internet and decided to come," says Hiraoka.

Harutyunyan says she can't tell exactly how many tourists have come from Japan. She adds: "Everything depends on the time; at times there are many visitors, at others only a tourist or two. But these trips are really unique."

Visits from Armenia to Japan are unique not only for the high prices (7-10 days tripd including the airticket costs nearly between $2,200 and $4,000), but also for their originality and sense of interest.

"Those leaving for Japan from Armenia are mainly upper class people, who do not care about money. They have traveled across the world and seek new original sensations," says Harutyunyan. "People coming to Armenia from Japan are interested in the ancient treasures of our country, those wonders registered by UNESCO."

According to Harutyunyan those wonders are divided into three groups.

The first place of visit is Ejmiatsin ` the Ejmiatsin Cathedral and churches of Gayane and Hripsime. The second are Geghard and the Azat gorge. And the third group where all the Japanese tourists wish to visit by all means regardless of age and occupation are the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries. A visit has been organized also to Karabagh upon the tourist's request.

Besides the visits to historical and cultural places, trips are made also to the capital's restaurants, where usually the Japanese who love healthy food consider the offerings to be too salty or greasy, and the smoking and alcohol not very pleasant.

"The Japanese do not like Armenian spas (yoghurt soup) for they are not very much used to dairy products," says Harutyunyan. "But they always take with them Armenian brandy, silver jewelry and handmade table cloths that have been kept carefully for a long time."


Pan Armenian 25.10.2005 19:51 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Armenian Premier Andranik Margaryan yesterday met with Japanese Ambassador to Armenia Issey Nomura and delegation led by him. The delegation is in Armenia to participate in the Armenian-Japanese business forum, reported the Press Service of the Government of Armenia. Margaryan hoped the forum to promote bilateral trade and economic relations, attraction of investment, establishment of prospective business relations, that were a major goal of the economic policy of the Armenian Government. He considered the event as a new expression of friendly relations between Japan and Armenia, as well as the positive outcome of the June visit to Japan, during which the Armenian delegation took part in WorldEXPO-2005 in Aichi state and the opening of Armenia's pavilion. The Japanese Ambassador said he was sure that events like that will promote strengthening the friendly Armenian-Japanese economic ties. The Japanese Ambassador and businessmen considered information technologies, chemical industry, energy, precious stones and metals, as well as tourism, culture and sport as best directions of prospective cooperation. They emphasized they had been informed about Armenia's potential in those fields during the first Armenian-Japanese round table, organized in Moscow in June 2004. Within that context the parties emphasized the need for continuous exchange of information on the economic potentials of Armenia and Japan.

Although relations between Armenia and Japan develop in the spirit of mutual understanding and friendship, however they have a greater potential for greater expansion of the cooperation, Margaryan and Nomura remarked. The Armenian PM emphasized Armenia's desire to raise the bilateral relations to a qualitatively new level. Having remarked that Japan is a major donor of Armenia today, Margaryan highlighted Japanese assistance to Armenia. As of the intergovernmental agreement on energy signed in Yerevan this March, Mr.

Margaryan thanked for providing a favorable credit of $150 million, which is one of the largest being provided to Armenia today. The parties noted their readiness to make efforts to gradually transfer from the policy of Japanese humanitarian assistance to Armenia, grants and favorable credits to mutually beneficial cooperation. The parties said they were sure that organization of business forums like that is an important move in that direction.

Japan to open embassies in Namibia, Armenia, Marshall Islands

Japan Economic Newswire December 26, 2014 Friday 10:54 AM GMT

TOKYO, Dec. 26

TOKYO, Dec. 26 - The Foreign Ministry said Friday that Japan will open embassies on New Year's Day next Thursday in Namibia in southern Africa, the former Soviet republic of Armenia and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.

That will raise the number of Japan's overseas diplomatic offices to 207, including 139 embassies. No new buildings have been built to house the new embassies, the ministry said, meaning they will be located in leased buildings.

"We expect the opening of these embassies will help...bilateral ties strengthen and develop," the ministry said in a statement, noting that Namibia and Armenia have rich resources and the Marshall Islands is located in an important sea lane for Japan.

In line with the government policy of better communicating its messages overseas, the Foreign Ministry is seeking funds in the budget for a new fiscal year from April to open a total of 15 more diplomatic offices, such as in Turkmenistan and Albania.

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