This morning we meet with Tomomi Kikuchi a Japanese cosmopolite and passionate entrepreneur, dedicated mother of two lively and adorable children to talk about education, childhood memories, Japanese celebrations and festive season.
Follow Tomomi @bonitatokyo and http://bonitatokyo.com/
Could you introduce yourself in a few words?
I was born in Japan then I went to boarding school in Australia and later graduated from a UK university. I started my career at an American Investment Bank (where I experienced its dramatic bankruptcy in the 2008 financial crisis) and left the finance world when I moved to London. I relocated to Tokyo this summer and launched my business to introduce Amaia Kids to Japan.
How would you describe the education you give to your children? What sort of Mum are you?
I am a hands-on mum who needs a glass of wine in the evening! Japan does not have a nanny culture, which means we, Japanese mothers, are very much on top of everything related to our children. The other morning, my 4 year old son demanded a full course breakfast comprised of chocolate, candy and ice lolly. There was so much drama about this from 6am that I needed a glass of wine plus sake that evening! It is a hectic life, but one full of love. My out-of-the box-thinking son’s dream is to become a spider and my 6 year old daughter dreams of becoming an inventor. I love to dream what they dream.
My children go to an international school in Japan. I am grateful that they are bilingual and growing up in a diverse environment. As a mother, I strive to support my children in widening their perspectives, as well as expanding their abilities. Language skills are important, however comprehending and appreciating the cultures behind the language is even more valuable.
Art plays an essential role in our family. We love visiting museums and theatres all over Europe. My son is in love with drawing and crafting; my daughter is a voracious little reader. We often spend our days playing and singing the Magic Flute, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats, etc. I enjoy a wide variety of art forms with my children.
What sort of little girl were you?
Cheeky with a wild imagination! Japanese children start commuting to school by themselves at the age of 6. I took public transport by myself and it was such an adventure! I invented a game in which I’d find as many hidden streets as possible en route home. The narrower the better, the darker the funnier. And yes, this fun activity caused my mother a lot of anxiety and worry!
Are there some differences in the way Japanese children are dressed from the way European children are?
The coordination of boys’ outfits with bloomers or shorts is very European, which is a style not often seen in Japan. For girls, European dresses have more variety in colour than those of Japanese labels. In Japan we have four distinct seasons and many families will change the content of their wardrobe entirely between the seasons - for example as Autumn and Winter approach, Summer clothes will be put away in storage until Spring time. For this reason, we never see children wearing short sleeves during Winter in Japan, whereas in Europe short sleeved tops might be worn under sweaters.
Could you tell us if and how Christmas is celebrated in Japan?
In Japan, Christmas is more a time to celebrate happiness and love, and does not have any religious significance. Christmas Eve is similar to Valentine's Day; in Japan it is a romantic day for young couples to spend time together and exchange presents. For children, it is known as the day Santa comes with presents. Japanese children may not know about the Virgin Mary nor Jesus, but they know Santa very well. 25th December is a normal working day in Japan.
What is the most important Japanese celebration?
Japanese New Year (29th December to 3rd January) is the most important celebration of the year, and similar to how families in Europe view Christmas. New Year is the period when families get together, share a special meal, pray and post greeting cards. Japanese children receive pocket money (called “Otoshidama”) from parents and relatives. From Christmas presents to New Year pocket money, Japanese children get spoiled in the Winter!
We also have holidays where we celebrate children: we have Girls day celebration (called “Hina matsuri”) on 3rd March, and Boys day celebration (called “Kodomo no hi”) on 5th May. Again, the family gathers to celebrate and wish for children’s happiness and growth.
What are your favourite Christmas places and activities in London and in Japan?
In London, I love going to the Christmas concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The audience sing Christmas songs together- it is one big giant karaoke party! My children can’t miss going to Santa’s grotto- it is one of the major events of the year for them. The Christmas decorations of the National History museum, Harrods, Regent street, Winter Wonderland, and pretty much everywhere in London is beautiful, and brings the Christmas magic.
In Tokyo, the Tokyo Midtown illumination is beautiful and worth seeing. The enormous Baccarat chandelier arrives at Ebisu Garden Place from France every year. The illumination there is also gorgeous. Japanese Christmas is more about creating a romantic atmosphere rather than the magic of Christmas.
Could you share with us your best Christmas memory?
Japanese houses do not have chimneys or fireplaces. When I was a child, I was worried whether Father Christmas would be able to make his way to my house as it does not have chimney. So I came up with the fabulous idea of leaving my bedroom window wide open on snowy Christmas Eve so Father Christmas could find his way in. My parents didn’t check my room until morning - you can guess their horror and amusement when they found out! I cherish the time when I still believed in the Christmas fantasy. I wish all children all over the world will have wonderful Christmas memories.
What do you like most about Amaia as a brand?
I adore Amaia’s designs because they are beautifully timeless and classic. Whilst the style is traditional and European, her designs have a modern twist. I was also attracted to her clothes as they are designed for siblings’ outfits to have matching looks.
I also admire Amaia’s story: how she established the brand and how she grew it with the co-owner, Segolene. Japanese mothers are still struggling to strike a good work-life balance, resulting in many women ending up leaving their careers. Her story inspired me to start my own business. One day she told me: “Tomomi, there are so many women who waste their talent!” and urged me not to do the same. Segolene reassured me with her heartful words which made me look for higher targets. I truly believe Amaia and Segolene would inspire so many other women in Japan, and I hope to share their life ethos and lifestyle through Amaia’s brand and clothes to people in Japan.
What are your cherry picks from Amaia’s Christmas collection?