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    Hidehiro Ishiura, the director general of JETRO, says getting us to sample a variety of Japanese noodles is a priority

    Hidehiro Ishiura is blessed with a curious palate. I’m told he was the most animated participant at a recent culinary showcase at Taj Coromandel’s Prego, where French perfumer Nicolas De Barry paired food with fine scents. A few minutes into our conversation, the director general of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) is busy jotting down my restaurant recommendations for local flavours. Food, he agrees, is one of the prime aspects in any cultural exchange. And with his recently-concluded sushi seminar at The Leela Palace being such a hit, he plans to follow up with more. Ishiura, who has been in the city for close to a year now, points out that the food industry here has a lot of potential, second only to the automobile sector. That is why food export from Japan (from instant noodles to condiments) ranks third on the list of objectives for the front man of JETRO, the others being FDI to Japan and promoting tourism.

    indulge04Port to port
    Previously working at the Mumbai operations of JETRO, Ishiura feels that the financial capital has a merged culture. “I think the official language of Mumbai is English,” he smiles, adding that it is a lot like Tokyo. “Chennai is a bit different,” he agrees, adding, “it is also a port city, but you don’t get the feeling of too much stress here.” Ishiura finds it disciplined, with a lot of enthusiasm towards education. He predicts that the auto sector will only grow, and along with it, the support industries, making Chennai the auto hub for South Asia.

    Bicycle diaries
    On the downside, he feels that our infrastructure could do with a boost. Power and water are the primary concerns, he says. And while he agrees that the Chennai Metro Rail is a good concept, he offers that the roads and the capacity of the port could also do with a bit of improvement. Speaking of roads, the Old Mahabalipuram Road is Ishiura’s favourite stretch and he does not miss his weekly bicycle trip from Nungambakkam to Vivanta by Taj — Fisherman’s Cove on Sundays. Soon, he shares, he will attempt to pedal all the way to Pondicherry.

    — Ryan Peppin

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