Star kimchi saleswoman here hails from JapanA 41-year-old Japanese woman is the star marketer of kimchi in a department store in central Seoul as she gives explanations about kimchi to Japanese tourists.
Asked by many how she speaks Japanese so well, she replies, “I am Japanese,” leaving many customers taken by surprise. Mihoko Takanashi is a kimchi saleswoman.
Ms. Takanashi came to Korea in 1989 following her marriage to a Korean she met in Japan.
“When I first arrived in Korea, I had a hard time because of cultural differences, but now I have become a Korean ajumma (married woman),” Ms. Takanashi said. “Sometimes I even dream in Korean.”
When she was looking for a part-time job in 2002, she saw an advertisement by a kimchi producer seeking a Japanese-speaking saleswoman.
Ms. Takanashi says she can feel that kimchi has become a mainstream food in Japan. “The Japanese like Korean-style kimchi better than Japanese-style kimchi. They used to eat only cabbage kimchi, but now more Japanese eat radish kimchi, green onion kimchi, sesame leaf kimchi and soy sauce marinated crabs,” Ms. Takanashi said.
Sales at the kimchi booth where she works tripled last year, and in November she was selected one of the best kimchi marketers.
Ms. Takanashi’s intimate marketing approach contributed to the sales increase. She explained to her customers that kimchi needed to be stored a few days for fermentation before eating and sour kimchi could be used in other dishes.
“Not many Japanese know that they can make gourmet cuisine with kimchi,” Ms. Takanashi said.
She said she felt grateful for more cultural interchanges between Korea and Japan as a result of the Korean TV drama “Winter Sonata,” which was a huge sensation in Japan.
“When I got married, my family members were very much against it,” Ms. Takanashi said. “But now, my nephews and nieces have started to learn how to speak Korean and listen to Korean pop music.”
by Lee Chul-jae