IEFTA Founding Board Member & family owns Castelroc restaurant
ML: How did life lead you to Monaco?
NK-B: When I was still living and working in San Francisco as a clinical Psychotherapist, my friends invited me to come to France and Switzerland for a ski vacation, where I met my now ex-husband who happened to be from Monaco, a Monegasque from an old Monegasque family.
I fell in love with him at the first sight, and the new story had begun.
ML: What were your first impressions compared to the life you knew in Japan and was it easy to integrate in Monaco?
NK-B: It would have been easier to adopt Monaco’s family life if I had come straight from Japan, instead of arriving directly from the US, especially from liberal West Coast.
In the end, my traditional education from my family in Japan helped me to value traditional family life style in Monaco, I guess.
After all, a good balance of self-assertiveness and politeness helps me to surf through Monaco’s traditional social and family life.
ML: What is the one thing you never get tired of in Monaco?
NK-B: A view of sea and mountains all in one.
ML: You eat every week at your favourite restaurant in Monaco, Castelroc, which your family owns, but where do you like to have a coffee with friends?
NK-B: The best cafe has been Case de la Cafe for casual meetings with friends for a good tasse of cafe. But the Hotel Metropole would be the best place to feel lucky, where I’m happy to be me. I do all my business meetings there. And not to forget that it is a favourite place for special aperitif.
ML: You have your own company, K.i.C. Business & K.i.C. Entertainment. What does K.i.C. stand for?
NK-B: Katayanagi International Consulting, my maiden name…
ML: Tell us about the different Business and Entertainment sides?
NK-B: Basically I do everything – everything that I like and everything that helps other people.
On the business side, currently, I work for various Japanese companies in European major cities for some intentional events, various meetings and/or negotiations with European companies.
Once I realised that many Japanese companies need more than just an interpreter but also a negotiator since they tend to be taken advantage of when dealing with Westerners, I started my business. It’s a cultural difference. Sometimes they need a tough woman like me who speaks directly and understands the cultural contexts to move towards reaching the objectives. For negotiations, I make the best deals, and make French people work efficiently for Japanese clients. I am good at that.
I also export a Champagne brand and other “intelligent lifestyle items” to Japan.
For entertainment, I represent/promote artists like painters, musicians, DJs, photographers or beauty aestheticians.
Now, looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, I’m consulting lots of Japanese companies on how to intelligently welcome foreign visitors. I also promote hotels and restaurants from Japan for international visitors, including making a short presentation video with my new production company.
My work seems to be an extension of my hobby.
ML: Would you say the Japanese travel easily and adapt easily to new cultures?NK-B: Over all, no, I don’t think so.
Especially now, less young people want to leave home. They are highly satisfied with their domestic community and prefer a small and simple life.
Or they tend to not have enough time to travel, too much work.
I have many VIP Japanese clients visiting Monaco and all Cote d’Azur in general. Sometimes, I need to educate them how to behave in public to be smarter and more elegant. It is simply a lack of experience. For example, Japanese men in general have never served drinks to woman…. I insist on it in Europe.
ML: What’s the hardest part of running your own business?
ML: You are a founding Board Member of IEFTA, the Monaco-based NPO that helps filmmakers from developing countries. What is a typical day for you?
NK-B: At 6:30 am, I make a BENTO (lunch) BOX for my daughter for her university study.
By 8:00 am, correspondence starts with Japanese clients – they have been awake, working and waiting for me to get up – and time flies in front of my Mac. Most of the time – in thick glasses, no make-up and baggy pants! – I am typing proposals, presentations, answering emails and researching for my clients’ projects.
By 6:30 pm, I try to meet up with friends for an apèro, before returning home to cook dinner.
ML: You sing in a band?
NK-B: Yes, again. yes.
ML: Have you always been a singer?
NK-B: I guess you could say that. At 14, I started to sing in an all-boys heavy metal band.
I was a target of bullying at school. No girls ever spoke to me for about 10 months due to social pressures. I guess because I was acting like a princess, I stood out with luxury dresses and family cars. My parents owned fashion department stores when I grew up. I was a victim of luxury marketing family life! So some of the girls thought I was too snobby to be a friend.
So I had no choice but to play with boys: football during lunchtime, Kendo, and rock bands after school. I remember I even shaved my hair very, very short at that one point.
But I was happy to be in a band. Playing music filled my empty heart.
Eventually I joined only girl bands, and there I played drums.
ML: Tell us about your band
NK-B: This summer, I will sing in our band in Japan. Three years ago, we got together again after 30 years of a long break … The GOTEN (meaning the Japanese-style palace) is a hard-rock cover band, and we play a lot of music from Anne Lewis and Boøwy.
Then this year, I will play drums again with our girls’ band… I am so happy that we can do this. This is also hardrock and original music, too.
ML: You also practice Kendo. What does it teach you?
NK-B: Kendo is a philosophy, not a sport, and it teaches me everything about myself, and my desire to do better. We practice at an elementary school gym at blvd des Jardin Exotique
ML: One app or device you cannot live without?
NK-B: “LINE”, a Japanese communication app, that helps me keep in touch with my friends in Japan.
ML: One thing you miss most about Japan?
NK-B: Beside my childhood friends, it has to be (real) Japanese cuisine.
ML: What is the best part of ageing as a woman?
NK-B: The best part is that I don’t give a damn about the little things anymore and don’t feel guilty about it.
ML: What is something you’ve always wanted to try or do?
NK-B: Gazelle rally in Morocco (Rallye Aicha des Gazelles).
ML: Greatest piece of advice another woman gave you?
NK-B: “What a f**k are you waiting for? Jump in or he will be taken by other woman!”
Article first published May 28, 2017.