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For this installment of our In Bed With series at Refinery Hotel, we’re getting up close and personal with one of the world’s favorite moms. Known for her unique style and captivating content, Kimono Mom has amassed a large following on social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube. In this interview, we’ll explore her journey, her inspirations, and her insights into the world of influencers.

Here, we get In Bed With…Kimono Mom.

Welcome to Refinery Hotel and to New York City! This is your first time traveling to NYC. Tell us about your and your daughter Sutan’s first impressions of the city.

I am so happy to be in beautiful New York! As a fan of Alicia Keys, I have long admired New York since I was a child. My first impression of New York was that it was wonderful to see people from so many different cultural backgrounds coexisting. There was a certain feeling of ease and free spiritedness that I really liked. I am also really interested in how the cityscape has a mixture of historical and modern buildings. Sutan is always confident no matter where we go and she loves to explore. On this trip, she’s been very happy because hamburgers and french fries were available in every restaurant we’ve gone to.

What is number one on your to do list in NYC?

At the top of my to-do list is meeting my fans that live in New York!

Congratulations on your incredible journey as a mom, former Geisha, and now a successful influencer with millions of subscribers! Looking back at your experiences, what has been the most surprising or unexpected aspect of your journey thus far?

When I first started making YouTube videos, I was suffering from postpartum depression, and I felt insecure and like I wasn’t contributing to society. At the time, my husband was busy with work and wasn’t home much, so I was alone with my daughter, and I felt a strong sense of loneliness, like I was cut off from society. That’s why I started using YouTube — to connect with society. I started thinking of ideas for what videos I could do. I thought about “cooking” as a housewife, which I do every day, and “kimono,” which is part of my identity as a former geisha, in order to try and change my situation somehow. When I started posting videos, I was surprised that people from overseas found my daily life as a new mom, desperately trying to survive, interesting. Every time I posted a recipe, I received many thank-you messages from people who tried Japanese food by using my recipes. I had thought that I had no worth, but those messages made me happy, and I am still working to make Japanese food more accessible to people overseas. I am still surprised that I had the courage to start the channel 3.5 years ago and I am grateful to the people who continue to watch my videos.

Reflecting on your journey from being a Geisha to becoming a successful influencer, what advice would you give to individuals who are hesitant to pursue their passions due to societal or cultural expectations?

You should start with something, even with something small, just to get started. I recommend taking a break from the environment that hinders your passion. But there will be times when you cannot do what you want to do, and at that time, instead of trying to become someone else by forcing yourself to do the impossible, just be prepared to wait. I think that the future you want is waiting ahead of you, sometimes it takes patience and trying little by little.

As your channels continue to grow, collaborations and brand partnerships become more prevalent. How do you choose which brands to work with and ensure they align with your values and the expectations of your audience?

One of the reasons I make videos is because I want my daughter to know how much she has been loved. I am making them so that they can be used as a love letter to my daughter and so she can use it as a source of strength by watching the videos during difficult times. So when it comes to collaborations or brand partnerships, I naturally choose what is best for her.

You showcase a mix of content, from fashion and beauty to motherhood and lifestyle. How do you decide on the topics and themes for your videos, and how do you ensure they resonate with your diverse audience?

The focus of my videos is Japanese home cooking. The reason for this is that I myself have been helped by my mother’s home cooking. My mother was good at cooking and always made my favorite dishes when something good happened. When I was in a difficult situation during my time as a geisha and called her crying in the middle of the night saying I wanted to quit, she secretly delivered my favorite curry to the back door of the geisha house where I lived. When I got divorced and returned to my parents’ house, she welcomed me without asking anything and cooked many dishes for me. Whenever I was happy or sad, there was always my mother’s familiar home cooking waiting for me when I returned home. That sense of security has supported my life so far. Now that I am a mother myself, I strongly feel that making home-cooked meals is about knowing my roots. I have a desire for people all over the world to be proud of their roots and to live strongly, so I believe that the best thing I can do is to share my own culture, food, and customs through my videos.

One of the aspects that stands out about your channel is the inclusion of traditional Japanese arts and customs. How do you incorporate these elements into your content, and what role do they play in connecting with your audience?

I am not intentionally trying to create something that is typically Japanese, but I am trying to share it as it is, without embellishment as much as possible. Many viewers from other countries feel that sharing this true form is what makes it feel Japanese. I hope that everyone, including people who have roots in Japan or have been to Japan, can feel at home. And not only them but also people who are raising children, busy working, and anyone who can relate to or be encouraged by my content. I want viewers to be energized by watching my daily life, be encouraged to appreciate their own roots, and to live proudly.

Sharing your personal life and experiences with millions of viewers can be both rewarding and challenging. How do you navigate the fine line between authenticity and maintaining privacy, especially when it comes to your family?

When I’m filming abroad, that’s an exception, but since my daughter started going to nursery school, she only participates in filming for about an hour once a week. So when it comes to my daughter, I prioritize her time for extracurricular activities, playing with friends, and spending time with family. We don’t usually make plans or scripts for our videos, we just start filming. When it comes to my daughter’s appearance in the video, we carefully decide on the content of the video with our trusted team members and editors who check it along with me for all videos in which she is in. And we only use nicknames for all family members and team members for security reasons.

As an influencer with a unique sense of style and a diverse range of interests, we’re curious to know: What are your top three favorite products that you absolutely cannot live without, and why are they so special to you?

Face Pack: I use it twice a day for my daily skincare routine. It makes me feel positive in the morning, and it’s great for resetting and healing myself at night. It’s also great because I can take care of my skin while I’m taking care of my child.

Donabe: The taste of rice cooked in a donabe is the best. In Japan, everyone knows how delicious donabe rice is, so many people cook rice in it instead of using a rice cooker. You can make delicious rice faster than a rice cooker. I want everyone to try it!

Umami sauce: A popular seasoning in Japan that almost everyone uses. It contains soy sauce, bonito dashi, and mirin, and you can make delicious Japanese food by just diluting it with water. Although it is a staple in Japan, it is still not well known overseas. So for viewers with a diverse range of dietary needs, I created Kimono Mom’s original UMAMI SAUCE, which is gluten-free, vegan, alcohol-free, and additive-free. I hope this will make it easier for people all over the world to make Japanese food!

What are your best travel tips with a young toddler?

When you have a small child, things don’t always go as planned, so enjoy unexpected things. Decide to enjoy everything, and it’s good to have a laugh. Also, don’t pack too much into your schedule.

In conclusion, what is the most rewarding aspect of being an influencer for you personally, and how do you envision your influencer journey evolving in the future?

So many people are following our journey, and I feel like I’ve made friends all over the world because fans have come to see us in all the countries we have gone to. I wonder how happy New York’s Kimonoko (our fan name) will be when they see me in this interview? I also started an online cooking class for anyone to be able to cook Japanese food in their own kitchens. In the future, I would like to share my knowledge and what I can do with people all over the world, and spend more time with Kimonokos. My role model is Martha Stewart, and I hope to be like her someday.

Can’t get enough of Kimono Mom? Neither can we! For a glimpse into her life, check out her vlog post featuring her stay at Refinery Hotel and adventures in New York City.

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