Taeko YOSHIMURA, the shop owner
After living abroad
I used to work as a sales representative when I was young. While working I had already learned some English conversation to entertain our foreign clients with drinks, dinner, sightseeing, etc. But it was in my mid 30’s that I started to learn English conversation, when my whole family moved to Houston in the United States because of my husband’s job. The life in the US gave me a strong motivation to learn English even harder. After returning to Japan I kept learning by listening current news and topics in English.
Becoming a supporter of foreign residents in Kunutachi
About 20 years ago I became a volunteer at a Japanese language class for foreigners in Kunitachi. The foreigners with whom I got acquainted there would talk about the joy of daily life in Japan at first, saying Japan was a good place to live in. But as we got closer they started to talk about their problems and ask me for advice.
I guess they were comfortable in talking to me or asking me for advice because I would basically accept everyone without denying anything at all. Some people had serious problems and I made a great effort to find the best solution with them. In three or four years I became a representative of the Japanese language class at the Kunitachi International Society and I collaborated with Prof. Yokota, who was in charge of foreign students affairs at the Hitotsubashi University.
Through interaction with them I started to see the problem of children with foreign roots, whose one or both parents are non-Japanese. They had difficulties in finding their places neither at school neither nor in local communities because they couldn’t understand school textbooks even if they could speak fluent Japanese, or people took a distance from them simply because they looked different from ordinary Japanese. I realized that there were many children who had no Ibasho, or a place to be, in Kunitachi and I started to feel the necessity of making an Ibasho for them.
The founding of Kuni-chan, the mom and pop candy shop
On founding Kuni-chan, a mom and pop candy shop, I consulted with the owner of a long established mom and pop candy store in Yagawa. The owner said his little customers would come to talk to him everything that they couldn’t even tell their friends or mothers. He also became able to understand their relationship with other children and their true characters.
Kuni-chan the mom and pop candy shop was founded in April 2006, opening between 1 and 5 pm on Saturdays. Its name comes from the city of Kunitachi. It is a mom and pop candy shop, but sweets and snacks are only the means of attracting children. My real intention has been to provide an indoor space for children where they can freely spend their time. The children who visit my shop are from pre- school kids to adolescent high school students. Some kids come here with no money, but they can enjoy beads craft, karuta (a Japanese card game), puzzles, etc. at no extra charge. They don’t have to buy anything at all.
I offer okonomi-yaki, a Japanese style pancake, with plenty of cabbage at 30 yen each. While waiting for pancakes to be fully cooked for about five minutes or so, kids talk about their family life or worries, which gives them some comfort. I would like to give them a relaxing place after they worked hard at school. I hope they are filled with happy experiences by the time they go home and they feel ready for school next week.
Reflecting on my child-raising
I have three grown up daughters and a few grandchildren. All of my daughters has a family and has a work in their own fields. They are doing what they want to do. When I reflect on my child-raising, Parents are to hold out for big hope for their children, but I would not expect much. Every child has their own goodness / strength, so it is important that you recognize it fully.
It is important to make your children observe domestic rules in order that they acquire social skills. You need to explain why you think they should do so, not just ordering it, whether they understand it or not.
Find your own enthusiasm
I started working with ‘Kodomo-batake (children’s fields)’ in collaboration with Mayumi Suga, the representative of ‘No-no Kurashi (Life in the field)’ in April 2012. Children can experience working on the farm once a month at ‘Min’na batake (everyone’s field)’.
I would like every child to find what they are enthusiastic about. Also I want them to have a variety of experiences and a lot of inspiration and excitement from them. The more excitement and the more inspiration they have, the richer their lives would be. I would like to help them gain such experiences, hoping that will bring more and more children self-esteem and confidences.