Satoko Kamada: the founder & the head curator
The 9 Stories First Series is about our head curator.
Who will be your person when you contact us.
9 stories about her, here it comes!
If you would like to know what is “The 9 Stories”, click/tap here
- LET ME BE YOUR ASSISTANCE
- BORN WITH CREATIVE URGE
- THE WING OF LANGUAGE
- FOUND A POT AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW
- ONCE A WISE MAN SAID…
- I HAD TO LEARN THE HARD WAY…
- MORE JAPANESQUE THAN EVER
- IT IS NOT FAIR!
- 20+ YEARS OF BEING A SERVER & KEEP IT THAT WAY
1) LET ME BE YOUR ASSISTANCE.
Hello, I’m Satoko, the founder, and head curator of “KoLe SHIKOKU, Japan”. For the very first series of “The 9 Stories”, I would like to share my stories with you. That way, it might give you a better idea of the people I will be introducing in the following series.
The first episode is about what I am for you today. Then I will share my life story from the Second episode. I hope my experiences amuse you or you find something in common. Thank You -Satoko
I call myself “Head curator”. What I do is “to find excellent creators who can produce items or services which you can feel special about yourself” and “to curate information about Shikoku island (where I am) and Japan to introduce it on social media”.
Everything I handle is from/about Shikoku island, Japan. It is because I would like you to have unique items or experiences that people around you don’t have.
We are living in a world where anything can be bought with one click without talking with anyone. Q&A chat is even answered by AI nowadays. But I find having & developing real human & professional relationships with my clients are way more important than business efficiency. One person you know the face is working/taking time for you is also one type of luxury that is getting harder to find.
So, I work with my clients individually. Consider me as your personal shop & experience assistant.
My purpose in running KoLe is to provide moments for you to feel as special as you are. If you see the value in our individual service, then you are already a super special person for us. I hope I will have the privilege to serve you soon.
2) BORN WITH CREATIVE URGE
I was born in 1981 in Kagawa prefecture, Japan. The oldest memory of my life is drawing pictures in the sitting room. I must have been 3 years old.
I was kind of a child as long as I had pieces of paper and crayons or pencils, I was (well, still am) happy.
“Observing”, “Wondering”, “Thinking” and “Creating”. These 4 things have been my nature. Looking up at the sky and wondering what “clouds” really are. Kept observing and thinking to find the answer to my own version. Things I could not express with words turned out to be drawings or crafts. So, I was quite busy with my own projects.
Then I started feeling the gaps between myself and the kids of my age around me. Although I always had friends to play with, every time I had to work a bit harder to be “fitted-in-ish”.
This strange feeling worked both ways for me. Sadly the thought of “I don’t fit in” haunted me. But it gave me a chance to pursue what I love doing; “Art” & “Language”.
Graduating from the high school which has a class specialized in learning Fine Art gave me the foundation of what I do for a living now. Learning English hard gave me an escape ticket from feeling misfit in society.
Life works in a funny way, doesn’t it? If I were the kid who felt “Fit-in”, “KoLe” would have never been born.
3) THE WING OF LANGUAGE
My mother offered me to attend Conversational English Classes outside of the school when I was 9 years old. My mother implanted me with a shiny idea about English, back then. “It is cool to be able to speak English”. I am a product of the early ‘80s. Not so many kids back then learned English.
If you read Ep.2/9, you can guess how shiny the idea was for me. “I want to be cool.” It was the first honest motivation to learn English. But by the time I reached 12 years old, I realized that if I had good enough English, I could escape from the society I don’t fit. I wanted to get out of Japan and find a place I can fit in as who I am.
The first chance came to me when I was 16. Exchange program for 2 weeks to Tasmania, Australia. My English was broken but I overestimated my ability. Then, I realized that I don’t have enough English to even have a conversation over the dinner table with my host family. I failed because of my own hubris.
It led me to study harder and seek the next chance. In Japan, when you are 17, you have to decide what to do after graduation. I had 2 choices. Applying to the University to learn filmmaking in Osaka or study English abroad. I picked the second choice.
I worked a few months after graduating high school then I went to Dublin, Ireland to study English. It was the year 2000. I was 19. It changed everything. I finally got it. The ticket or the wing to find the place I can fit in.
4) I FOUND A POT AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW
Although it is the second biggest city in Kagawa, where I grew up, Kagawa prefecture is the smallest prefecture of Japan. It means I grew up in the countryside and the society is apart from the word diversity.
In 2000, I was 19 in Dublin, Ireland alone. Nobody knew who I was, who my family was. Fresh start over! That was how I felt. I lived there for 5 years. During these 5 years, I met so many people that I could never have had the chance to meet if I stayed in Kagawa. Nationalities, languages, cultures, religions, genders, …the friends and people who I studied or worked with were from all over the planet. I encountered so many different ways of life. Living as a minority even became a great life teacher.
What I learned during the time was whoever we are, what makes us feel sad, pain, happiness, and joy are the same. Whoever we are, we share the core.
I flew to Dublin as if chasing a Leprechaun till the end of the rainbow. What I found was not a pot of gold. But it was a huge pot filled with unique and wonderful golden life lessons to form who I am as a grown-up female with the support of great diverse people.
Did I find the place where I can fit in? Yes and No. Yes, I learned that it is okay for me to be me and gained confidence. But no, it was not about the place, to begin with. It had always been about how I see myself and it was my decision to make how I stand.
5) ONCE A WISE MAN SAID…
Ever since I was 19, I had the ambition to run my own business.
During the 5 years in Ireland. I became a mother when I was 21. I became a wife of an American man. It was time for us to move to Kagawa, Japan, for my daughter to get a strong dialect of Kagawa. Otherwise, my daughter and my parents won’t be able to communicate.
In Dublin, I worked in a restaurant. It was probably the first and last time that the owner and I had a talk with just the two of us. He asked me what I would do after going back to Japan. I answered that I wanted to try running a business even if it is small.
He gave me his wisdom that day. I forgot the exact words…but…
As long as it is the business to make someone happy or smile, you are on the right track. Even if the business were totally new things in your area. Don’t forget that.
… It was the words of the man who started a Japanese restaurant in Dublin when the idea of Japanese food was not so popular there.
Now I am nearly 20 years older than I was back then. Looking back at what I have done professionally, it was always the time I forgot what he told me when bad things happened. Now I finally started to understand what he really meant, recently.
When the opportunity of starting KoLe came along, I remembered what he told me. I have forgotten about it for a long time.
Who is your wise man/woman and what did he/she say?
6) I HAD TO LEARN THE HARD WAY…
Let’s face it, I am a high school graduate who became a mother when I was 21 with an ambition of running my own business. My resume and having fluent English will not win against university graduates’ resumes, in Japan. I had to grab every opportunity in front of me and bring myself to where the final education no longer mattered.
My professional life started from waiting tables in Japan when I was 17. The staff education of the restaurant was so strict that I gained all the basics of being professional there.
After that… My job experience looks like this…
In Japan: before the current company:
-Running own English Classes in Japan
-Teaching Japanese to foreigners in the city I am in (volunteer)
-Supporting foreigners in the city (a staff of local international association)
-Selling life insurance
-Waiting tables for a breakfast buffet in a hotel
-Being a international sales rep of manufacturing industry
*I’ve done a few jobs at the same time
In Japan: with the current company:
-Designer (Interior/DTP), Creator (installation for commercial facilities), Illustrator
-Founder & Head curator of KoLe (KoLe is runned by the company I am with now)
By the time I got an offer from the CEO of the current company to start a new company, I had all the skills and knowledge (hospitality, sales, products/service development, international trade, elementary level of bookkeeping, financial products, the reality of small businesses in my local area…).
I have walked on the animal trail like a career path. Scratches & scabs everywhere but the funny thing is… if I didn’t have all the job experiences I had, I could not have come up with the idea of doing “KoLe SHIKOKU, Japan”.
7) MORE JAPANESQUE THAN EVER
I left Japan when I was 19 and came back when I was 24. The 5 years of living abroad gave me a totally different idea and perspective of where I am from. I saw “What differs my culture from other cultures” more vividly than.
Imagine, you have a bunch of confetti in different shades of pink. It is hard for you to spot one shade of pink. But if there were one flake of pink confetti among a bunch of different shades of blue confetti, you would spot the pink confetti easily. It was something like that. I thought I was a very strange shade of pink confetti when I was growing up in Japan. Whichever confetti I am next to, I stood out strangely. I was the pink confetti which felt like my shade is not there. So I went to a bowl of blue confetti. Then I realized “Oh, boy I am pinker than I thought I was! INTERESTING!”.
Until a certain age, humans do not have the idea of “individuals”. For self-development, children need to notice the difference between “ME and THEM”. It is not about which is better. It is about how much it helps to see who we really are by being in a totally different environment.
When my family and I moved back to Kagawa, Shikoku, Japan, I saw so much beauty in the places, cultures, and nature. And I felt “THEY ARE MISSING OUT SO MUCH!”, “Why aren’t Shikoku islanders working harder to introduce us to the world?!”, “We need to inform people out there that we exist and how much we can offer to the world”.
That was the moment when I was 24, added one thing to my bucket list: Do something to connect abroad and Shikoku. It was a seed of “KoLe SHIKOKU, Japan”.
8) IT IS NOT FAIR!
I was called over to be a creative member of the leaflet production for Mr.Morimoto’s company when I met Mr. & Mrs. Morimoto for the first time. As soon as I saw what Mr. & Mrs. Morimoto created, I fell in love with their work. More I worked closely with them I also fell in love with their warm personality.
Mrs.Morimoto’s dream is for her husbands’ items to be used by people abroad. She has been trying so hard. But without having another language and starting to learn international trade was a thick, tall, and long obstacle for her. Marketing an item abroad is also costly.
Then I offered to be their outsourced international salesperson. I went to Strasbourg, France to attend a trade show on behalf of them. The reactions and comments I got while I was in France, were all wonderful! Then I noticed one feeling sprouting; “IT IS NOT FAIR!”.
Consumers abroad only get to know the Japanese products which the companies have enough human resources and budget to market abroad. Even if there were items which you might love, if the producers were sole traders or small businesses, you wouldn’t have a chance to know these products. The choice and chance for you to choose from are limited… That part, I felt unfair.
They don’t have a correlation between ‘Ability of international communication/trade & financial muscle’ and ‘Ability to create wonderful items’.
There must be more Mr. & Mrs. Morimoto like small producers out there. I have more skills and experience in the field of international trade than them. If I could do all the work outside of their factories then they can concentrate on producing items. We can provide more things to choose from for you. That’s how “KoLe SHIKOKU, Japan” started.
9) 20+ YEARS OF BEING A SERVER & KEEP IT THAT WAY
Ep.6/9 I mentioned my career background. I started in the field of hospitality, then worked in different industries and jobs. But ever since I started working, whatever the job I did, my roots have always been “I serve my customers/clients and co-workers”.
Whatever the job I have done, what made me a little bit better at them was probably the experience that I worked seriously and hard in the hospitality field at an early age of my career.
I get a kick out of seeing my customers/clients’ happily satisfied or surprised faces. I just can’t get enough of it. The feeling of the connection and relationship with regular customers/clients’ are priceless. The moments of me being a face-less server turned into a real human respected and trusted server to my customers/clients’ are the trophies of my life.
I have been a server proudly for more than 20 years, I am going to keep it that way as long as my clients/customers allow me.
Because “KoLe” has begun, I am so excited to have more chances to provide individual-focused service to you. Thanks to technology today, we can talk face to face with the internet.
We offer free virtual meetings/consultations where we can talk as if we are having conversations over the counter of a shop. I am in Japan but do not worry about the time difference, I will be up and ready for the time suitable for you.
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