We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaoru Kuribayashi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kaoru, what inspires you?
Ever since I first started working professionally, my inspiration has always been people’s creativity. I am passionate about interpreting intangible values and spirituality that lie at the root of someone’s creative works. Japanese cultural traditions such as Chanoyu (tea) and Ikebana (flower) have centuries of history. I am intrigued by philosophy, virtue, and value those artistic practices have transmitted from generation to generation.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am founder of Nippon Collection, freelance marketing consultant, and graduate student of Japanese cultural study at UCLA. The core value that connects my business and academic careers is to interpret philosophy and spirituality, which are often lost in the context of consumerism and materialism, across borders and industries.

My twenties were a journey of figuring out which business industry would best fulfill my vision. I worked in a non-profit art foundation, a fashion and interior retailing company, a global business consulting firm, and an ethical startup before I was 30. Now I am confident with what skills and experiences I have gained to offer values that are truly unique to my own as a freelance marketing consultant.

I graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2020 with a master’s degree in marketing to grow my professional business skill. I am currently pursuing a second master’s degree at UCLA in Japanese cultural studies. This time, I am dedicating to approach to my life question: What does it mean to be a bilingual Japanese? What defines Japan? What makes Japan culturally authentic? Does “Japan” exist outside of Japan?

I have been asking these ideological questions ever since I studied abroad in the UK at the age of 17. This is why I founded the Nippon Collection (NC) upon my undergraduate graduation in 2014; NC is an art project that experiments with new ways to express the philosophy and spirituality of traditional Japanese culture in contemporary life. I have held matcha ritual workshops for wellbeing internationally, including at Oxford University and the University of London. Currently, I am developing “MediTEAtion” that updates one of the world’s oldest meditation practices to fit modern lifestyle with Yuki Okamoto, Hosokawa Onryu Tea School and Hokokawa Mishoryu Ikebana School Successor of Headmaster. MediTEAtion will be held in English and open to anyone interested in living a more mindful life and who loves tea.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite thing about LA is its multifaceted characteristics. Day 1 starts with exploring the neighborhoods like Venice and Santa Monica. We will go to small local shops, thrift stores, and flea markets. Grab coffee at local cafe and have dinner at Culver City Downtown. Day 2 is a beach day. We will pack some bento box and spend a day in Malibu. On Day 3, we will head down to Torrance to try a new ramen place. We will go to a Japanese market to get some ingredients for home cooking. We will spend Day 4 and 5 camping in Topanga State Park. I will bring some Matcha to wake up with a nice cup of tea and meditate in the nature of course. Day 6 is an art day. We will dress up a little bit to go to a museum during the day and a gallery opening in the evening. On Day 7 I will invite some friends and neighbors and have a fun, relaxing gathering at home.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I shoutout to our ancestors who were courage enough to explore the world when there was no internet or easy means of transportation, Especially, I cannot help but respect these Japanese artists who left Japan to not only test their abilities on the world stage, but also questioned what Japanese culture is from a global perspective at the end of 19th to the beginning of 20th century. I am following in their footsteps and challenging the ideological and existential questions they posed.

Website: www.nipponcollection.com

Instagram: imthekaoru

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