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May 25, 2021
Meet Yoko Segawa, our talented May collaborator, who believes that cooking is a basic form of self care and we cannot agree more. We first encountered Yoko on Instagram Reels, where she serenely shares recipe details of her healthy, plant based creations in 30 seconds or less.
Yoko's IG account, @yokos.kitchen an extension of her YouTube channel of the same name, has an immediately recognizable style. The pastel pink hues, fresh flowers, unique food creations and tunes that flit between mellow electronica to delightfully carefree pop tracks will instantly put you at easy.
We recently caught up with Yoko and chatted about everything from what she misses most about Japan to how the macrobiotics made her fall in love with a plant based food.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Sweet, mellow, a pinch of spice
Your favorite colours? Pink, lavender, and gold
What is your fondest childhood memory? Dad making me ramen for Saturday lunch
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Night owl trying to be an early bird
Favourite English word? Luscious. Sounds romantic and delicious at the same time.
Favourite Japanese word? Oyatsu which means snack!
Favourite emoji? 💕💓❤️: sending love all the time
Puppies or kittens? 100% puppies!
What's your pet peeve? Breadcrumbs left on the table
Fave fruit and veggie? Strawberries and sweet potatoes are my absolute favorite. Right now I’m obsessed with the papaya and lime combo.
Instagram posts, Instagram stories or Instagram Reels? Posts
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Brush my teeth. Then I brush my teeth again after breakfast.
Your favourite snack? Dark chocolate bars with nuts.
What's your life motto? Follow your instinct.
If you had to choose only one: YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram? Instagram! Love the artistic side of IG.
Thank you so much for your time Yoko. Just like you, we are big foodies here at Smartbite and I’m pretty sure this interview will be 95% food-related but, first things first, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Yoko! I’m a healthy, mostly plant-based recipe developer, food photographer, and videographer. I moved from Japan a couple of years ago so my recipes are largely influenced by Japanese culture, history, and taste profile. My recipes are an interpretation of ancient Japanese knowledge and secrets to our modern cooking, and I hope you enjoy the ancestral touch in simple everyday recipes.
In 2019, you moved from Japan to the US. What inspired that move and why did you pick Ohio?
Actually I moved to the US. to be with my husband. We had been in a long-distance relationship for a long time and now finally got together. Living in other countries sounded like an exciting idea to me. I love traveling and exploring other countries and cultures, and eating food from all over the world is my lifelong dream. Now I live my dream and I can’t wait to see where my life takes me once the world opens up again.
We all feel like we know everything there is to know about the US and American culture from movies and TV but what things surprised you when you got there? Did you experience culture shock?
Not a big culture shock but how the cities are developed in the US is much different and very interesting. In Japan, railroads and train stations are the blood vessel of the city, so all the restaurants and stores are located around them. And everything is packed in a super tiny space and within walking distance. Here in the US, everything is spacious and big. I love how breathable the cities are!
You have experience from a plant based cooking school in Japan. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, of course! It was an amazing experience and it's where my passion for cooking started and where my seed of entrepreneurship spirit was planted.
School was about plant-based recipes and healthy habit-forming for women. I was a student at first and then became an instructor. At school, I found my passion for recipe creation and teaching. But the best thing was meeting so many women with different career paths and life choices. I realized that happiness comes in so many shapes. Women are so strong, free, and capable of doing anything they want, and following your passion is not a privilege only for special, talented people.
Why did you start sharing your delicious food creations online? Do you have a specific goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your content?
Since I was already doing cooking classes in Japan, my first intention was to start cooking classes in the US. Sharing recipes online was something I started while figuring things out. But as I was exploring the beautiful creations other talented creators shared with the world, I just became hooked on the art and beauty of food photography and videography. Growing up I always loved reading fantasy books, but I’m such a visual person, and writing is not my strong suit. Discovering food photography was such a blessing since now I can compose a story visually. Currently my main focus is on improving my visual storytelling skills.
In your Instagram bio you say: “Not a vegan, just fell in love with plants, and you will too💕” What or who made you fall in love with plants?
I fell in love with plants when I met my macrobiotic diet guru. The macrobiotics is a plant-based cooking and eating philosophy that draws on Zen Buddhism. My macrobiotic guru has a deep understanding of cooking and the relationship between food, body, and soul. And her cooking was like magic, doing wonders to seasonal harvests, and opened up my eyes to the world of plant-based cuisine. I grew up in omnivore family, so the plant-only cooking was a new and exciting experience for me.
What inspires your cooking? Do you have a favorite ingredient or favorite dish?
Inspirations come from many places: Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, trying new restaurants, checking out the grocery stores. But the biggest inspiration comes from seasonal vegetables! My macrobiotic diet guru said that seasonal vegetables tell her how they like to be cooked! I’m not that spiritually connected to nature, but my intention is always to make the best out of the ingredients I have.
You live so far away from your homeland. What do you miss most about Japan?
Besides my family and friends, it might be too obvious, but the food is what I miss the most! I especially miss the Japanese confectionery.
How does vegan offering in Japan differ from vegan options in the US?
I was surprised by so many vegan products available on the market, a variety of vegan cheese, butter, meat substitutes, and of course, snacks! Some vegan products are available in Japan, but the market is not big. To be honest, it’s pretty challenging to find a vegan restaurant in Japan (I know a handful of good places, so ask me if you are planning to visit Japan). I love the choices American restaurants and grocery stores offer.
What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory?
My first own cooking class with my friend was a precious memory. It was the first time planning, marketing, and executing the class by ourselves. It was a lot of work but seeing people having fun cooking and smiling after the tasting is such a rewarding moment.
What particular food is your food vice? You know that one food you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking?
Pastries! I can’t leave the bakery without grabbing a chocolate croissant.
What are some of the tunes in your kitchen playlist you enjoy listening to when creating content?
It changes depending on my mood, but Japanese 80s and 90s pop is my go-to.
What makes you happy?
Creative time makes me so happy. Even stirring nut butter or doing the dishes for the recipe brings me joy.
If we’re only going to make one dish from your YouTube channel Yoko's kitchen, which one should it be?
Tofu karaage bowl for sure! It’s a super easy and nutritiously balanced meal I can eat every day.
So where can everyone keep up with you to learn more?
Instagram is where I spend my time the most! That’s where all the updates, new recipes, videos are at, and I’d love to chat there. If you like full cooking videos, YouTube is where I share all the detailed recipes.
Saving the big one for last, where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years? Any big plans you’d like to share?
I can’t say too much yet, but I’m working on a big project right now. And I can’t wait to share more details soon. Other than that, my focus is going to be on my YouTube channel. I find that video can deliver so much more of the nitty-gritty aspect of the recipe, and I’m obsessed with sharing cooking videos. I hope to meet more people online to broadened my horizon.
Want to give classic Japanese dishes a plant-based spin? Catch up with Yoko and her incredible + aesthetically pleasing food creations on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok.
WHAT IS SMARTBITE COLLECTIVE? Smartbite Collective shines a spotlight on changemakers in our community that live according to Smartbite principles. We started Smartbite Snacks because we want to live our lives on our own terms while creating a positive change around us. We don't wait for things to happen, we get up and happen to things. Roadblocks don't discourage us, they fuel us. We believe that life is what you make it, how you impact it and also how you look at it – rice cakes are just rice but wine is just grapes. To us simplicity, boldness, kindness and giving a shit (yes, we said it) are everything and when we meet someone who embodies all of the above, you bet we'll ask tons of questions.
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