A Japanese man falls in love with Lo Lo culture

Nga Do
Cuc Bac Café is a favorite destination for those dropping by Lo Lo Chai Hamlet in Lung Cu Commune, Dong Van District in the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang. The café results from Japanese Yasushi Ogura’s passion, effort and investment.

Ogura, born in 1975 in Tokyo, is interested in traditional Vietnamese culture. “Japan has only one ethnic group while Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups with their unique cultural traits. That makes me excited,” said Ogura.

Since 2002, he has frequented Ha Giang as the province has imposing landscapes and 22 ethnic minority groups. In 2013, he decided to settle down in Lo Lo Chai Hamlet just below the Lung Cu flag tower as he is captivated by the beauty of nature and Lo Lo people.

“In Vietnam, I see Dao, Mong and Tay ethnic minorities well preserving and promoting their culture while Lo Lo people haven’t done anything. Everyday there are many tourists visiting Lung Cu flag tower but there is no coffee shop for them to relax,” he added.

According to Ogura, doing charity work is giving knowledge to people to help change their lives. Thus, an idea of establishing a café to introduce the culture of Lo Lo people came up. Having surveyed around 95 homes in the hamlet, he found the house of Diu Di Chien aged 39 and Luc Thi Van aged 38 having the best location for setting up a coffee shop.

To Ogura, Lo Lo Chai has a lot of advantages to promote community tourism such as its beautiful landscapes, cultural features and good location. This is also where scenic spots like Lung Cu flag tower, Pho Cao flea market, and the house of Pao (where popular movie “The story of Pao” was shot) are accessible. Lo Lo Chai annually welcomes around 1,000 tourists.

At first the family of Diu Di Chien and Luc Thi Van did not agree Ogura’s idea of establishing the café as they did not feel comfortable with strangers in their house. Ms. Van was confused as she did not know how to make coffee and speak in English. However, Ogura finally won the confidence of all family members.

He invested VND200 million to buy furniture and build two restrooms. He also took a girl from Hanoi to Lo Lo Chai to teach Ms. Van some everyday English and show her how to make coffee and other beverages, and serve guests. All the people in the family gradually gained confidence to start up the coffee house in early 2015.

It is delightful for tourists to visit a beautifully decorated café made from soil, stones and wood. It is also interesting to hear guests ringing a bell to place orders and watch Lo Lo people weaving brocade, knitting and making wine.

Ogura said tourists to Cuc Bac café could contribute to sustainable development of local tourism, improving local people’s quality of life and preserving cultural features of Lo Lo people.

He also provided VND95 million for Mr. Sinh Di Gai’s family to build a house to offer homestay services. Local people deeply appreciate what the Japanese man has done to help them improve their livelihoods.

He has been traveling a long way between Tokyo and Lo Lo Chai. “That Japanese man stays most of the time in Lo Lo Chai. He accompanies me to every house in the hamlet to take pictures and watch people weaving clothes. Everybody loves him,” said Sinh Di Pai, a 60-year-old chief sorcerer of Lo Lo Chai Hamlet.

Ogura made his first trip to Vietnam in 1995. That one-week journey took in HCMC and Can Tho City. Since then, he has visiting Vietnam on a monthly basis. He has been trying to learn Vietnamese and come to Vietnam twice a month.

Though he works as a PR executive for a food processing firm, he also teaches Japanese at a foreign languages center in Hanoi with an aim to improve his Vietnamese speaking skills and earn more money for living.

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