There’s something so fascinating by places and cultures that are SO complex, that even those whose job it is to figure them out, declare them “unknowable”.
Though perplexing, this isn’t a negative aspect… it’s actually wildly beautiful. Anthony Bourdain said this, “I love Tokyo. If I had to eat only in one city for the rest of my life, Tokyo would be it. Most chefs I know would agree with me. For those with restless, curious minds, fascinated by layer upon layer of things, flavors, tastes and customs which we will never fully be able to understand, Tokyo is deliciously unknowable. I’m sure I could spend the rest of my life there, learn the language, and still die happily ignorant.”
Though specifically regarding the city of Tokyo, I feel that this sentiment spans to the Japanese culture altogether. And it’s, like I said, a beautiful thing.
I’ve been intrigued by Japanese culture for over a decade now. When I first moved to Hawaii, I lived in Waikiki, which is the tourist mecca of O’ahu. I resided smack dab in the center of the beach-city’s hustle and bustle. Amongst that first layer of life that I had, there was the aspect of being submerged in all new strange (read: unfamiliar to me) cultures and people. And if you didn’t know, one of the largest groups of tourists here in Hawai’i, are visitors from Japan. Honestly, I remember that my fascination began specifically with the children. I kid you not, throughout those years that I spent working (in a restaurant) and living daily life amongst Japanese families and strangers alike, I never once, NOT ONCE, witnessed a Japanese child misbehaving in public. And even as a 17, 18, 19-year-old (before becoming a mother was even a blimp on my life radar), that thought would cross my mind constantly! I was so impressed by how Japanese parents didn’t even seem to HAVE TO PARENT, lol! It’s like their children were born with the deepest form of respect for their parents that the reality of “listening” or “behaving” was actually just an instinctive way of being! It’s incredible and as an older, wiser person now (and a mother too) I still am deeply impressed and baffled by it.
Another connection of mine was formed actually in Los Angeles, California. Many are unaware of this, but I spent two semesters of college living in L.A. During that time, I was a full-time legal studies student, but I worked (also full-time) at a retirement community. The full story of my life in California is a long one and to be saved for another article. But during my job working with over 150+ residents all ranging from the ages of 65-95 years old, it was the most unique, toughest, yet rewarding job that I had ever held. In my time there, a lot of the residents took to me as they would their own grandchild. One in particular, still has an imprint on my heart today and will for the rest of my life. She was a Japanese/American who lived through the United States’ Japanese Internment Camps.
The Internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in the western interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific coast. My dear friend “A”, for her 75th birthday, was interviewed by a major publication and bravely told her story of being just a child when her business-owning parents were forced to give up all that they owned and along with their children, leave their home to go “live” in isolated camps – a direct response to Pearl Harbor. I won’t get in to politics here, but the tears that she shed and the way that her lean, yet strong 75-year-old body (she exercised every single day even in her 70’s) trembled while she told her haunting memories of that kind of childhood, are burned in to my memory forever. Remarkably enough, she followed with extrodinary triumph of thereafter creating a wildly successful life proceeding the War and the rest of her life altogether. Her story deeply impacted my soul and the way that I viewed my (just) beginning adult journey.
So beside witnessing the unique Japanese children behavior and forming a bond with a dear elderly friend, I also made Japanese friends who were my same age. That was on campus at Hawai’i Pacific University. Funny story, one of those HPU friends, was the first person to ever introduce all-things Japanese food in to my life. I remember him being wildly/borderline obsessed with SEAWEED, and how perplexing that first was to me (seaweed for breakfast – say what?! lol). I mean, I was raised in the Midwest (of the United States) and never before moving to Hawaii did I think that eating seaweed regularly would ever be on my plate! But being an extrovert, open-hearted and wildly curious to try new things – I WAS ALL ABOUT IT. I remember an old friend from high school that visited me in those first years of my budding worldly-influenced life, she was flabbergasted by my new beloved and regular diet that consisted of RAW FISH, SUSHI RICE, SEAWEED, and everything else fully enjoyed with chopsticks. :)
To even further the story of my immersion, there was my actual academic studies. In one of my college classes at Hawaii Pacific, I had a Japanese/American Literature Professor who talked a lot about internal peace, the samurai, premodern Japan, and the history of the Edo Period. Now being someone who grew up with a U.S. Army Veteran for a dad, who was also an Airborne Ranger/Paratrooper (light infantry who jumped out of airplanes), any and all types of “Warrior” systems, always sparked interest in me.
Now although I have only briefly stepped foot in Japan (as a stop on my way to India – pictured above), I remember noticing how exceptionally clean and organized even the airport was!
Needless to say, Candice Kumai, the chef and author of “KINTSUGI WELLNESS” – today’s Book Spotlight, is someone whom I deeply respect and that truly inspires me.
In Japanese culture, “Kintsugi” or “Kintsukuroi” (金繕い) is an art form that reconstructs broken pottery, sealing the pieces together with gold to create something that is even more beautiful for all of its cracks and flaws (hence the stunning cover design of this book).
So in Candice’s “KINTSUGI WELLNESS”, she uses the practice of this art form and demonstrates how it can be applied to basically all aspects of our everyday life – to in return, yield radiant health and overall wellbeing!
According to Google Books, “The philosophy of kintsugi is not about perfection – it is about healing, becoming whole, and finding the beauty in our imperfections. Written in Candice’s warm, conversational style and filled with more than seventy-five gorgeous full-color food and lifestyle photos, KINTSUGI WELLNESS offers readers the tools to mend what ails them and to embrace and celebrate what makes them unique.”
Even more astonishing, is the fact that Candice herself, wrote, photographed, directed and produced this book!!! I don’t know about you, but that story alone is enough to intrigue me. I mean, it’s a work of art straight from her heart sharing her unique voice – offered to the world, with only the motive of bettering it!
In regards to the three years that it took her to produce this beautiful book, she shared:
“You see, I was writing in a very crowded wellness space, and as one of the original pioneers in this space, I decided it was time to walk away. I wasn’t going to play small or basic.
My grandmother then, was passing away in Japan, an unfit relationship ended, I wasn’t happy with writing “basic” or “clickbait”.
I needed to heal, to love to grow… I needed to go deep, and seal my past wounds. I needed to shine my brightest light, and stop being so afraid…
I want you to know– most of my career I have been scrutinized + criticized– being a public person is not easy. I never cared to be in the spotlight… rather, I want my work to shine (kaizen) + to help others:) (osettai) and that is all. Writing + creating content with integrity is how I have been able to do this.
I urge us all to let up on ourselves and one another. Yes, you will see imperfections in my work + my friends, that is what I am currently learning to let go of… Wabi sabi. Be gentle with thyself and others.”
So my friends, thank you for reading this article, not only was I able to storytell my own connection to this book, what it is about, and the culture in which it stems from – but it also gave me a chance to share the beautiful soul that is Candice Kumai. If you haven’t “met” her yet, take a peek at her website: candicekumai.com, her Instagram, @candicekumai, or even more so, connect with her NEW PODCAST on “HOW TO SELF-LOVE and SELF MAKE IT!” here:
Lots of Love and Light,
CLICK TO BUY THE BOOK/