Finding Balance through Macrobiotics
by Kirk R. Patterson
Kumiko Ueki was born in Tokyo and raised in Yokohama. Through J’s Kitchen restaurant and six other restaurants, she is raising awareness of macrobiotic cuisine and the natural approach to life that it represents.
Please tell me a bit about your background.
After graduating from high school, I went to veterinary school because I wanted to help sick animals, but I dropped out after becoming disenchanted with the way animals were treated.
At 20, I married an American and moved to Los Angeles. However, with our lives moving in different directions and with the stresses of an international marriage, we divorced seven years later, and I moved back to Japan.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
Returning to Japan, I told my father that I wanted to operate a restaurant. I think I was influenced by my grandmother, who ran a Russian restaurant. My father owns six golf courses and so he let me operate a restaurant in one of them, but I had to get the bank financing and learn accounting and other aspects of management on my own.
I opened the first restaurant in 1991, and then one per year, in each of the golf courses, after that.
When did you get into macrobiotics?
While I was in California, I became interested in vegetarian cuisine and that led me to focus on macrobiotics. I started strictly following the macrobiotic diet in 1991, and I took macrobiotic cooking lessons at the Kishi Institute of Japan in Ebisu and from other teachers.
In 2000, I was back in California. I started seeing my ex-husband again and I got pregnant. Just as we were talking about remarrying, when I was five months pregnant, he died in a traffic accident. After my son was born in 2001, I returned to Japan.
Macrobiotics makes the mind peaceful and the body strong, and I believe that allowed me to overcome the tragedy more easily. That experience made me want to make the benefits of macrobiotics available to others, so in 2004 I introduced macrobiotic menus in all my golf course restaurants. In 2005 in Hiroo, I opened my first purely macrobiotic restaurant—J’s Kitchen. “J” is for Jerome, my son. I am very happy when I see so many people getting to know macrobiotic food.
What is macrobiotics?
The underlying principle is that what we eat greatly affects our physical and emotional well being. It’s about getting back to a diet that is in harmony with the human body. The macrobiotic diet and philosophy make people more cooperative, less aggressive, and less envious of others. As a result, I believe that they can contribute to a better, more peaceful world.
What have you learned from the various twists and turns in your life?
I have learned that we should rely on our own abilities and trust our decisions. Also, I always want to help others feel better and to share what I have learned.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to open a J’s Kitchen in Los Angeles in two years. And beyond that, I imagine myself taking it easy operating a bar on some tropical island beach.