Edmonton Japanese restaurant serves take-out with a side dish of love

·3 min read
The messages written by Nana Demachi offer comfort and humour to customers during uncertain times. (Nana Demachi - image credit)
The messages written by Nana Demachi offer comfort and humour to customers during uncertain times. (Nana Demachi - image credit)

A Japanese family-run restaurant in Edmonton has been dishing out more than just take-out during the pandemic.

Over the past year, Yokozuna has attached hundreds of heartfelt messages to their orders.

The notes have become a bright spot for many customers in times of uncertainty and isolation.

Woven with compassion and humour, the messages encourage Edmontonians to be good to themselves and each other, spreading well wishes and cheer:

"Checking in! How is everyone doing? We hope that you've been able to spend time with loved ones! Thank you for doing takeaway with us, we really appreciate you!"

Each note ends with a hand-drawn colourful heart and the same sign off every time:

'Much love, Yokozuna.'

Yokozuna
Yokozuna

In an interview Wednesday after a busy lunch-hour at the south Edmonton restaurant, manager Nana Demachi couldn't say how many notes she's written over the past year or so. Initially hand-written, she started printing them when she couldn't keep up.

She said the notes are a way to thank loyal customers for their support and stay connected, especially when in-person dining was not allowed.

"It's just a way to check in to see how customers were doing because a lot of customers were checking in on us and asking if we were doing OK," she said.

"Some people said that they stuck it on their fridge and some people say they collect them … I had somebody come in and said they were having a rough week and it was nice to have that note."

Yokozuna
Yokozuna

The notes remind customers that they are special, and to ask for help if they need it. They have not shied away from tragedy either.

"215 stolen voices. Far too young to have left this earth. No longer lost, we hope that your voices are heard, peace and justice be found."

Bobbi Stobbart, a regular customer for 25 years, tipped off CBC News in an email with the subject-heading 'Take-out love. A most unexpected way to experience caring in a pandemic.'

She wrote: "I would feel a warm smile at her writings and at times would take a deep moment of contemplation — all because of a take-out order of food."

Bobbi Stobbart
Bobbi Stobbart

In an interview, Stobbart described the "tiny little love messages" as "food for the soul extraordinaire."

She recalled how the note about the Indigenous children made her weep.

The messages became a source of comfort, something to look forward to, as well as an example.

She chose to fill her cup with love and thus in the spillover filled mine. - Bobbi Stobbart

"You just don't expect that in the middle of something as chaotic as a pandemic," Stobbart said.

"Nana made a choice to be spiritually generous in the middle of it … even while they're experiencing loss and hoping their business would make it through.

"She taught me that in the midst of adversity, we always have choice and we can fill our cups different ways. And I believe she chose to fill her cup with love and thus in the spillover filled mine."

Bobbi Stobbart
Bobbi Stobbart

Demachi credits Yokozuna's regulars with allowing the Japanese restaurant to survive the coronavirus.

One day at the beginning of the pandemic, they served exactly one customer.

"It was our fourteen dollars and seventy day, but I think it's better than zero," Demachi said.

She's not sure how long she'll continue but said the notes are not just for customers.

Yokozuna
Yokozuna

"It's just nice to know that it brightens up their day. So it's not just for the customer. It was partly for me, too."

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