Saturday, July 8, 2017

JULY BLOG FEATURE: Joanne Tomooka from Kiora Cottage

I originally came to Japan from New Zealand on the JET Scheme (Japan Exchange Teaching Programme) in 1996 with the intention of making some money to pay off my student loans before heading back to New Zealand. After three years of assistant “teaching” at primary and junior high schools I decided I really liked the country life here in Oita prefecture, married a local Japanese man and decided to stay for good. I have two children – my daughter is 16 and is now studying at high school in New Zealand and my son is 14 and at junior high school here in Japan. Over the years I have taught English at private language schools, kindergartens and community centers as well as doing work in the outdoor education industry. 

A few years ago I was admitted to hospital for a couple of months with an auto-immune disease. It was a turning point for me where I really looked at how much I was hating teaching and decided to give it up completely and focus on my cookie and jam business that I had slowly been building up. 

My business is called 'Kiora Cottage' and although in the past I have offered farm-stay style accommodation, I am now focusing exclusively on making jam, cookies, granola etc. which I sell at local shops. I am also involved in running a market twice a year that attracts over 40 stall holders and an increasing number of customers.

My current business has been slowly growing through word of mouth and I now have a lot of repeat customers. My real focus is on making cookies that people want to buy and eat every day, rather than the beautifully packaged cookies that people only ever buy to give to other people and that don’t actually have much flavor. I take care to use ingredients that are as natural as possible, with an emphasis on butter rather than margarine, and eggs from our own free range chickens. 

The business grew through my desire to feed my children snacks which were full of flavor rather than preservatives. My grandmother was a jam maker, so I use a lot of her recipes and love the fact that I am continuing on in her footsteps. I try hard to fit my business to my own personal needs and the needs of my family, rather than the need to make money. I make enough to supplement my husband’ income, but it doesn’t take over my life. 

So far 2017 has been a really hard year for me, with the death of my father-in-law and my Nanna, but I am working towards my dream of opening my own shop in my cottage in October. The idea behind the shop is to bring international craft and flavor to the countryside of Japan and it will feature my own baked goods as well as handmade craft items made by expats who are living all around Japan. So far I have made some great contacts with people from many countries who are living here in Japan and who are making incredible things. I also have some amazing locals who are working with me to make some unique items for “Kiora Cottage”. I love the idea of being able to support people here in Japan who are trying to make a living doing things other than English teaching. I am also really looking forward to meeting directly with my customers, rather than selling through a third party. 

Most of my free time is spent in the garden, looking after my family, sewing and doing Sudoku puzzles! 

If you know of any expats living in Japan who are making amazing things and who might be interested in putting their items in my shop it would be wonderful if you could contact me. You can also follow the progress of my new shop on my facebook page and hopefully a webpage will be added in the very near future. 




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