Irish people in Japan may be only a small fraction of the international resident population, but Irish culture has an outsized presence in Japan. Japan’s cities host dozens of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that draw tens of thousands of people, and Irish pubs and restaurants can be found in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. The strong representation of Irish culture here is a testament to the good relations Japan and Ireland have enjoyed for over 60 years. Kashiwa City’s Tea Shack Irish Café is a great place to connect with Irish culture in Japan. Have a cup of tea, or a glass of Irish beer, and relish Irish home cooking in this cozy cafe.
Tea Shack, hosted by an Irish and Japanese duo, is just outside the south exit of Minami-Kashiwa Station on the Joban local line. It’s tucked into a tiny enclave of other international eateries, so it’s in good company. This café, perhaps the only place in Chiba Prefecture that serves Irish cuisine, is a comfortable and casual spot. The proprietors welcome all visitors, and while you enjoy your meal, English learners especially are invited to chat casually to brush on English expression.
On my visit to Tea Shack, I had a plate of Dublin Coddle, a savory and warming stew-like dish, with real Irish sausages, bacon, and root vegetables. The dish is seasoned with herbs. The coddle is served with Irish soda bread, this time, subtly flavored with caraway. The bread brought back memories of my Scots-Irish grandmother's baking.
The local crowd has taken to a few dishes that may be familiar to Irish people and Irish descendants the world over. One dish that’s proved popular is boxty, a potato pancake fried on a griddle. Another potato dish is the colcannon, comfort food made with potatoes and cabbage. It bears a passing resemblance to creamy Japanese potato salad. Of course, the perennial favorite dish, Irish stew. Irish stews can vary greatly in their ingredients but are often based on mutton or kid goat simmered with onions and parsley.
The café also has a small but diverse library of English and Japanese language books, so you can either have a chat, or a cup of tea and curl up with a book.
Not far down the road is another rare treat, Brennan’s Irish Bar, where you can finish your evening with a few pints, have a good gab with the proprietor, and if you get your timing right, enjoy Irish music with local bands.