Meet the Irishman serving up Irish stew in Tokyo
Q&A: After six years in Japan, Alan Fisher quit his tech job to open an Irish restaurant
'I’m proud to say that I’m from Ireland and I love sharing our culture.'
After eight years in Japan and marrying a Japanese woman, Alan Fisher quit his job as a salaryman with Fujisoft to open an Irish restaurant, Kyojin no Stewhouse (The Giant’s Stewhouse), to serve up a taste of Ireland in Tokyo.
What did you do before you moved to Japan?
In 2003, I returned home to Ireland after serving in Kosovo with the Irish Defence Forces. By that time, I had served just under three years. While I was away, I saved as much as I could, so that when I returned I could go back to college. I think the Army helped a lot with my discipline, until then I had never really applied myself much in school. So, when I did go back, I was better prepared to get the head down and study. I graduated with a degree in business from Dundalk Institute of Technology in 2007 and then a master’s in marketing from Dublin City University in 2008.
Why did you choose to go overseas?
I remember thinking to myself at the time how I’d really like to get some “stand out” experience, to take on a challenge and do something that would help differentiate my resume. FÁS, the national training authority, was running the Overseas Graduate Programme, whereby they would introduce Irish graduates to companies in Asia, primarily Japan and China. So I went for it. I did a few interviews in Dublin and was offered a position with a Japanese IT Company called Fujisoft. I flew there on September 22nd, 2008.
What job did you do?
I worked with Fujisoft doing international sales and business development for six years , finishing up in December 2014. I could go on and on about my life as a salaryman but I’d rather not dwell on that. My focus was spread across a few different technologies such as software for embedded devices such as smartphones and tablets. It was all very boring stuff to be honest, but it gave me the chance to do a good bit of travel and get some solid business experience, for which I’m grateful.
Why did you leave?
I married a lovely Japanese girl in April 2014 and after the wedding, after I’d said goodbye to 30-odd people at Shinagawa station as they left for the airport, I was walking home crying my eyes out thinking to myself, “Is this it? Is this my life now? To have kids and work in Fujisoft?” I’m sure any onlookers that day didn’t know what was going on. Anyway, I really didn’t fancy that reality at all. So when my contract with the company ended in June 2014 I agreed to stay on for another six months only. That would enable me to wind down my responsibilities and consider carefully what I wanted for my life.
What made you think of starting a restaurant?
Starting my own business was always something I hoped to do and that August I just said, “Fe*k it! let’s go for it”. I’m proud to say that I’m from Ireland and I love sharing our culture. So, the core idea and mission for the business is to introduce and inspire a passion in people here for Irish food and culture.
In February 2015 I opened Kyojin no Stewhouse (The Giant’s Stewhouse), an Irish restaurant in Tokyo. My biggest hope is to help share a little bit of Irish food and culture with Japanese people who for the most part, are not that familiar with our small little island, which is often confused with Iceland.
Is St Patrick’s Day popular there?
There are some very passionate Japanese people who do some great work in the Irish network here helping promote Irish culture. This year alone there are 13 different St Patrick’s Day parades throughout the country and, while Irish people get involved and help, a special thanks needs to go to these fantastic people who volunteer their time to make these type of events happen.
This year also marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland, and the embassy here has been encouraging people to do something to help celebrate this relationship.
At Kyojin no Stewhouse we are hosting a 12-episode podcast (one every month this year) whereby we focus on different collaboration stories, chatting with people who have interesting Ireland/Japan cross-cultural experiences around such themes as business, music and sport.
It is called the Three Pint Podcast, and it is hosted by myself and Owen Devitt. As we go through the year, we hope to hear some interesting stories from some amazing people who for one reason or another find themselves forever linked to both Japan and Ireland.
The Ambassador of Ireland to Japan, Anne Barrington, joined our most recent episode along with Yoshihiro Tsuchiya and Tom Toi who are both very active in organising St Partick’s Day events here in Tokyo. The focus of our February episode is St Patrick’s Day and over a few beers we have a chat hearing their stories and experiences.