COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Yuko Uchiyama - Sending a Kokoro Gift from Japan to Spain and Switzerland
Thank you for being a part of the Kokoro Community! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Japan and currently live in my hometown of Yokohama, a famous costal metropolitan city next to Tokyo. Ever since I was a child, I've been interested in learning about foreign cultures, languages, movies and music. I've studied overseas twice: one year in a high school in the US when I was 16 years old and another year in a university in Australia.
Tell us about your experience with Japanese food while you were overseas.
I did a homestay for a year when I was in high school in California. It was more than 10 years ago but many of the locals at that time were interested in Japanese food and talked about how healthy the Japanese diet is from their perspective.
Just before returning to Japan, I had the chance to host an event for more than 20 people including my host family, friends and church members. I treated them all to Japanese food. At that time I didn't really have much experience cooking at home as I was very young, so my mum recommended that I cook one of the most common, authentic Japanese homemade dishes called 'Niku-jaga'. It's made from stewed meat (beef or pork), potatoes, onions and carrots with a sauce of sweet sake, sugar and soy-sauce. Although I could buy most of the ingredients there, I couldn’t find the most important seasoning called mirin (sweet sake or cooking sake) at the local convenience store. Ultimately I asked my mum to send this seasoning directly from Japan. It was so hard at that time just to collect what I needed to cook one single Japanese dish.
What Japanese foods did you miss while living abroad?
I missed natto tamagokake gohan (納豆 卵かけご飯) the most when I was overseas because both natto and raw eggs are not easy to find outside of Japan!
Where is your boyfriend from?
He's from Switzerland.
Are there any Japanese foods your boyfriend likes/dislikes?
He likes natto (納豆) because the smell reminds him of Swiss cheese. He dislikes ramen because he thinks it’s too fatty.
You sent our Care Packages to your boyfriend's family in Spain and Switzerland for the New Year. What kind of reaction did you get?
They were both so excited to receive the Care Package! We wanted visit them for the New Year, but weren't able to due to my boyfriend's work. Instead, we decided to send them a Kokoro Care Package to show our appreciation for their care and support. There are some Japanese restaurants in Europe, but there aren't that many supermarkets or grocery stores that offer a wide range of Japanese food. Many of the items were completely new to them, but they enjoyed the experience of trying new Japanese food.
What do you like about Kokoro Care Packages?
It’s user friendly. An English brochure is included in the box that explains all the ingredients so they could check the ingredients right away even if they had never seen the food before. Plus, all the recipes and recommended uses are available on the Kokoro Care Packages website. It's easy for anyone to enjoy right away even if they don't know anything about Japanese food. The delivery was also convenient and secure.
Do you have any comments for those who are thinking of ordering a Kokoro Care Package?
I highly recommend Kokoro Care Packages to anyone who loves Japanese food, is interested in Japanese food, or wants to introduce great Japanese food to their loved ones. Many Japanese restaurants are gradually being found overseas, but it might be difficult to access the individual foods or ingredients themselves. Through Kokoro Care Packages, I would love to see many customers overseas enjoy the hand-selected authentic and healthy Japanese food.