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Nagomi Visit being on television is only part of the story

2013-06-24

So if you have been following Nagomi Visit for awhile you probably already know that our program is going be featured on television this weekend June 29th 22:30-23:00 on BS Fuji.

Now this is BIG NEWS because it is not just a measly few minutes of screen time but a full thirty minute documentary (if you want to be exact probably 29 minutes minus a one minute long Kirin commercial) about what Nagomi Visit is about and what we are trying to accomplish as an organization. It's just us and only us for the full episode. Amazing!

When we were first contacted by the producers it was sure a dream come true but at the same time a bit hard to believe since we had been contacted before with similar offers. Even after meeting the crew and all the filming, it still felt like a dream.

Finally it is slowly starting to feel real with a photo and description about our program on the show's website and only a few days away until the episode airs.

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Hopefully we will be able to do a recap for those who are not able to see the show live but before that, here is a rough translation of what it says on the website.

"Know what a home visit is? It's a program where locals welcome travelers from all over the world to come to their home to eat lunch or dinner.

When you're traveling, it is often difficult to find a chance to really interact with locals and get to see what it is like to live in the place. However, with a home visit travelers can get a glimpse by going to a local home and sharing a meal.

Megumi Kusunoki who founded and operates this home visit program believes that there are many cultural boundaries that can be broken just by sharing a home-cooked meal. Not everyone has to be a native speaker in each other's language because food will help to cultivate good conversation.

The program is becoming popular around the world because the experience is similar to a long-term homestay program but can be done in just two or three hours.

There are currently over 60 hosts (note: there are actually 70 as of now), and over 220 groups who have visited these various households from 35 countries.

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In this episode we will be following a French couple making a Japanese character lunch box, a solo traveler from the United States among others. You will also see Nagomi Visit host Eri Taniguchi as she prepares to meet five travelers from Italy. The five of them who are artists and designers are visiting Japan in hopes to see the country they first came to know through animation and its culture. Eri prepares various dishes for the day including inarizushi fried tofu pouches filled with sushi rice, miso glazed dengaku, braised pork belly kakuni, fermented squid shiokara, and salted umeboshi plums.

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Will the guests like the Japanese dishes they tried for the first time?

Let us explore this Home Visit: a new kind of cultural exchange that begins at the dining table. It is where people first come to connect as travelers and locals, but eventually cultivate real friendships."

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This thirty minute show was a result of four days of filming spending many amazing hours with various hosts, guests, Yuko one of our Cooking Visit instructors, myself Alisa Sanada the Chief Operating Officer, and of course our founder Megumi Kusunoki.

A big huge arigato to all those who were with us during the filming including friends and family cheering us on in the sidelines. Yes, because of your support Nagomi Visit will be making its first major television appearance but that is not the only point I'd like to make here.

All those days of filming and waiting for the show to air have all been an important journey.

Hearing stories directly from hosts and guests, it reassured that they are not just participants but are people who strongly believe in our program's goals of true cultural exchange. We were also grateful to really see that there is a growing solid Nagomi Visit community and it is not just a scatter of ties between individual hosts and guests. Lastly, for the Nagomi Visit team, this will be a big opportunity to share with more people what really motivates us as individuals to run the program we love so much.

So thank you all not just for the screen time but the whole experience!

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Lets see what happens on June 29th 22:30-23:00 on BS Fuji!

So who exactly are the Nagomi Visit hosts?

2013-06-19

We’ve probably already told you somewhere that they are real people just like you. Many are in their 20s to 60s, who live alone or with friends and family in apartments and homes all across Japan including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sendai, Fukuoka, Niigata, Hakuba/Matsumoto, and Iga Ueno.

But now we have a video so you can see for yourself!

Make sure to turn on the English captions (subtitles) if they aren't already on :)

So what is Nagomi Visit all about?

2013-05-29

We have been getting a lot of media attention lately and are noticing a pattern in the questions we are being asked so decided to do a rundown of the basics.

This sudden surge in interest motivated us to really self reflect and update our About Us page so we are very grateful of this opportunity in addition to the obvious well needed exposure.

What does Nagomi Visit do?

Nagomi Visit International is a non-profit organization promoting cultural understanding through home cooking. We provide a forum for cultural and culinary exchange by inviting locals to open their homes for travelers over lunch or dinner.

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What is so special about Nagomi Visit?

We know meal sharing is not a new phenomenon but Nagomi Visit is here to make it easier to connect travelers and locals with the help of a little technology and a real life support team. Being an organization that started in Tokyo, we currently already have a strong fan and user base in Japan. However what makes us more special is that our programs are setup so that it is clear that all our participants are in it to make meaningful connections with travelers and locals alike as oppose to for monetary reasons. Safety is also a trait since the Nagomi Visit team takes time to communicate with all hosts and guests to create a community.

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How did Nagomi Visit get started?

In 2009, Nagomi Visit’s founder Megumi visited Denmark for the first time and was invited to a local home for dinner. The foods, the people, everything she saw was new to her but the warmth she felt was just like anything she would experience with friends and family back home in Japan. The new bond she made by sitting at the same table “breaking bread together” or “eating rice out of the same pot,” was the inspiration for founding Nagomi Visit on September 2011.

What is Nagomi Visit’s mission?

We want to encourage locals and travelers to humanize each other by “breaking bread” during their travels.

While there are many ways to exchange cultures, there is an important reason as to why we literally took the Japanese idiom “onaji kama no meshi o kuu” and made it into a program where people of all cultures come together to “eat rice out of the same pot.” Visiting a local home for lunch or dinner is the closest you can get to sharing each other’s everyday lives, which is the best way to start seeing a country for it’s people and not just as another place.

Who are the Nagomi Visit hosts? Why do they host?

Basically real people just like you. Many are in their 20s to 60s, live alone or with friends and family in apartments and homes all across Japan including Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sendai, Fukuoka, Niigata, Hakuba/Matsumoto, and Iga Ueno. There are many who are hosting because they themselves have been welcomed to a local home and being a part of Nagomi Visit is their way of giving back.

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Who are the Nagomi Visit guests? Why do they participate?

All our participants from 35 countries have so far been couples, families with children, friends, solo travelers, basically everyone who is an independent-minded traveler wanting to know more about Japan or interested in meeting new people. Though most of our participants have been between the ages of 20 to 60, we have had requests from very active 70 year olds which is very humbling.

We also have large groups of professors, instructors, and students participate as part of their school program, and even expats who have lived in Japan for awhile but would like to become more immersed into the local community.

What do participants get out of the experience?

We hope that the more you put into it the more you get out of it. Generally it’s the first time a traveler meets a local in their own home so that already is in itself a rewarding experience. Most participants come into the program ready to eat a good meal of course but are surprised by the variety of dishes they have never seen before in their local Japanese restaurant back home. Even those who have eaten the dishes, notice that not everyone cooks it like their restaurant does. Some also notice that they started liking ingredients they thought they didn't care for before like seaweed, seafood, tofu and the like because of freshness or differences in preparation among other reasons. Then of course is the time you spend with the host. Both the verbal and nonverbal exchanges have led to some great friendships. Even if not all conversations lead to everlasting relationships, don’t hesitate to ask hard hitting questions as this is your opportunity to learn.

What does the future hold for Nagomi Visit?

We are always expanding the number of hosting areas but we also have a few more Nagomi Cooking Visit instructors who will be able to teach Japanese cooking in other parts of Japan besides in Tokyo.

So come and Nagomi Visit with us!

If you have any questions feel free to contact us!

Nagomi Visit is now a nonprofit organization!

2013-01-24

It's official! Nagomi Visit is now a nonprofit organization! Check out our press release.

Why are we so happy? Why is this so important?

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To Gain Your Trust

Being a nonprofit is hard. We are required by law to be very transparent and well monitored. The paperwork necessary to maintain our nonprofit status is cumbersome. But Nagomi Visit is an organization built by people for people. We know for sure that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you wonderful people so earning everyone’s trust as a transparent nonprofit organization was a very important decision.

To Become a Sustainable Organization

Being a nonprofit will allow us to just focus on making Nagomi Visit a sustainable program for years to come. As an organization focused on self-sufficiency, all the money you are paying as a guest will go straight to making our program available for the next new guest and host and for no other purpose. Every single yen will strictly go towards making the Nagomi Visit vision come true.

So what do you want to do as a nonprofit?

We Want to Change the World (at least as much as we can)

The goal of any successful nonprofit organization is to bring good into this world. With Nagomi Visit, we simply want to give people the opportunity to not just learn about Japan but break boundaries over good conversation and of course very good food. Yum!

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Changing the World Should Be a Group Effort

Rather than just the two of us on the About Us page dictating how things work at Nagomi Visit, being a nonprofit will allow us to run our organization with the help of many who are part of the Nagomi community. An organization built on communication could not be built by us alone.

We started Nagomi Visit because we knew that travelers coming to Japan were looking for a way to meet locals and try real homemade Japanese food. We also knew that locals in Japan wanted a way to connect with the global community. However, it wasn’t until close to 30 hosts and 200 guests later that we realized we needed to take the next step to keep Nagomi Visit going.

So becoming a nonprofit organization is our first step into a big year as Nagomi Visit International!

Arigato to all of you and yoroshiku 2013!

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from Megumi Kusunoki and Alisa Sanada of Nagomi Visit International

Nagomi Kitchen is now Nagomi Visit!

2012-10-17

It's an exciting time at Nagomi Visit right now.

Nagomi Visit   Spice up your trip to Japan with a Nagomi Visit

First, we changed our name from Nagomi Kitchen to Nagomi Visit.

How is that exciting you say? Providing a platform for people to discover real home cooked Japanese food is still very important to us but we wanted to put a bit more of a spotlight on the people that are sharing their yummy food with you when you join a Nagomi Visit because they are the backbone of our program. Good food with good people in the comfort of your "home" in Japan is what we want to provide so changing the name to Nagomi Visit was a no-brainer.

Second, we did a complete overhaul of both our Japanese and English websites.

This is exciting news because we wouldn't have done this unless we were sure that people were interested in our program. We have been humbled by the response we have gotten from both guests participating in our program and the hosts who are welcoming our guests. We just started last year as a program but we are already reaching 150 participants and are very glad to say that interest from both sides is growing!

So we wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have supported us through our first year and glad we are able to welcome more people to our Nagomi family!

Nagomi Kitchen is now in Tokyo and Osaka!

2012-07-14

We are glad to announce that Nagomi Kitchen is expanding into the Kansai region! This means you will be able to visit a host family while you visit any of the major Kansai cities including Kyoto, Nara, or Osaka.

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Our first Kansai region host family are the Maeda's who will be welcoming you to their home in Osaka.

Since we first started Nagomi Kitchen in 2011, we were surprised at the number of people participating in more than one home visits even when we still only had host families in the greater Tokyo area. Now with the Kansai addition, I am hoping people will find that there is even more reason to visit multiple families! Thank you to all our host families! We wouldn't be here without you!

New kyaraben class teacher!

2012-07-12

Two fantastic things happened this Monday. First, we had a very cheery guest from Chile participate in our kyaraben character bento class. With her skilled hands she sure made a yummy bento box bursting with cuteness. I am very serious. Just look at the pictures!

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Second, we now have our friend Yuko as our very cool English and un poquito Spanish speaking kyaraben teacher! A professional of the culinary arts and teaching so we are in very good hands.

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So next time you come and participate in the Nagomi Kitchen kyaraben class we hope you will be excited like these tofu meatballs to meet Yuko and of course learn some Japanese home cooking! :)

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One busy day of Japanese cooking with 17 participants

2012-05-27

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Last Saturday we had 17 participants from Southern Utah University join our cooking program!

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The class started when the first 8 arrived in the morning but preparation for the class actually began the day before. We wanted the group to experience as much as possible in the class so we prepared the program so everyone can try making chirashizushi, karaage, tonjiru from the BasicJapanese Cooking class, and the bento from the Kyaraben Japanese Character Lunch Boxes class in less than 3 hours. Of course this includes time to eat and chat!

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It was fantastic to see everyone serious about learning but not too serious that they forgot to have some fun, especially with the kyaraben bento boxes.

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Although I know some struggled a little trying the Japanese-style mayonnaise and raw fish (which I can totally understand growing up in the States), everyone was quite good about trying everything. I always hope that everyone in our classes give these two ingredients a shot since the mayonnaise is different from what you find in certain countries and hopefully the raw fish is more fresh than what you find in your average Japanese restaurant outside of Japan, but no pressure! It’s just that I used to not be able to eat anything but now I can pretty much everything so I always want to share the joy that comes from giving things a try not just once, but a few more tries. Because you never know what you may end up liking!

The second group of 9 included the wonderful professor himself who was the one responsible for bringing his 14 students to study abroad and participate in our program. What an amazing person! Lots of thanks of course too for thinking that our program will fit well with the student's studies on Japanese family life, culture, food, and nutrition.

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Megumi and I are the ones teaching the class of course but because we always teach a diverse group of people, we are also learning from them every time. This time was especially meaningful to me personally because the students were from the US and they reminded me of myself 10 years ago. It was a wonderful feeling being able to share the Japanese side of my Japanese-American identity with them. Hopefully it will have some positive effect!

Last but not least, we must not forget to give recognition to the following two lovely ladies who assisted us for the day.

We must never forget Megumi’s mother who is always helping with the classes. She seems quite popular among our past participants!

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And this is our special guest for the day, Megumi’s sister who helped us just for the day. We couldn’t have done it without them!

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The small groups of two or three are great but there are many things to learn from these large groups too so hopefully we will get more opportunities like this again!

Revisiting an old favorite, tofu somen noodles

2012-05-04

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I think it was 4 years ago when I got hooked on cold tofu somen noodles. It is not a traditional Japanese dish but a product that was probably dreamed up by a company a few years ago and I guess has quite a bit of a fan base since grocery stores still sell it. Since normal cold somen noodles are a summer dish, these somen noodles made out of tofu also usually come out right before we hit the summer season. I use to eat it like a maniac because I loved both tofu and somen so this product seemed like a dream come true. Plus it was low in calories and I was trying to lose pounds and pounds of weight back then so this was perfect and it sure did work.

So now it is right before summer and the tofu somen are displayed nicely on the grocery store shelves. I was reminded of my love for this product and decided to give it another shot. I ate it with green onions, grated ginger, and broth with your basic Japanese ingredients like dashi, soy, and mirin like I would normally eat cold somen noodles. It tasted fine but something felt wrong.

It took me a bit to realize this but I think I’ve started to like the flavor of soy in real tofu so much that not being able to taste the soy enough in the tofu somen just didn’t seem right. So it wasn’t like the tofu somen noodles tasted bad but I think I just had to consider this product more of a new type of somen that happened to be made with tofu than a tofu product.

So I guess my taste buds have changed but I still think tofu somen noodles are a good healthy midnight snack. Much better than the homemade Oreo cheesecake leftovers (or may I say calorie overload?) I ate the other day! Yum but yikes!

Lazy late dinner with takikomi gohan

2012-05-01

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When I eat my standard Japanese steamed rice at home I usually have my jurokkokumai (十六穀米) which means rice with 16 grains. I have a huge stock of small packets with these 16 grain mixes I get from the supermarket. These individual packets have a long list of grains including foxtail millet, germinated brown rice, black rice, black soybean, amaranthus, sorghum, quinoa, azuki bean, black sesame, white sesame, adlay, red rice, proso millet, barley, corn, and Japanese barnyard millet, and I mixed them into my white rice. Apparently the grains have lots of fiber and is very good for you but I honestly just like it because it tastes good.

However, there are days when I do a little something different. Today my husband felt like takikomi gohan so I made this dashi and soy sauce based rice dish in my rice cooker. All I needed to do was make the base flavor for the rice with soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), dashi stock, and salt, and today's ingredients happen to be chicken thighs, aburaage (deep fried tofu), carrots, shimeji mushrooms, and gobo (burdock) which I cut up into small pieces and placed over the rice to cook.

If you look around for takikomi gohan recipes on the internet, there are ones that use other types of mushrooms, use konnyaku, hijiki sea vegetables, among other ingredients but today I felt like having chicken thighs, aburaage, and gobo for sure so the above was just what I used. I normally like hijiki but if you buy good hijiki the flavor is quite strong so on a day when I wanted to really taste the chicken I decided not to put it in. I also see a few recipes that use sugar or some other sweetener but I usually like a more subtle sweetness so I replaced it with mirin. Lastly it was already past 8PM when I started cooking so I chose a shortcut and used granulated instant dashi instead of making homemade dashi.

When you make this dish, make sure you can find gobo where you live because the earthy taste that comes from this root is very distinct yet nice. Plus preparing it is fun since you use the sasagaki cutting style which literally means to cut something as fine as a bamboo leaf but basically you are cutting the burdock like you are sharpening a pencil with a knife. You can also find instructions on the internet on how to do this so give it a try!