A Napier store stocking genuine Japanese-made designware is the upshot of owner Aki Ogawa's ongoing love affair with New Zealand.
Aki and husband Kent combine their talents in Raku, the shop they opened recently in Hastings Street.
She has the artistic eye, choosing beautifully crafted goods that include cast-iron teapots, hand-made hemp bags, table napkins, incense, exquisite cards, pottery goblets and strikingly different hairpieces.
Responding to demand, Aki also plans to import kimonos and Japanese fabrics.
The aim, she says, is to offer quality design pieces while keeping prices down. A business and marketing graduate,
Kent brings his entrepreneurial flair to the venture, which the couple have named Raku - a traditional method for making Japanese pottery but also a word meaning joy and fun.
Aki first came to New Zealand 11 years ago on an exchange programme to study art at Eastern Institute of Technology.
Her parents agreed to the trip on the proviso that she return home after a year.
During that 12 months, she fell in love with New Zealand, and resolved to live here permanently. Applying for residency meant returning to Japan first, however, and it was while she was continuing her art studies at university in Kyoto that she met Kent.
Used to big-city living and shops that stay open well into the night, he wasn't so sure about living in Hawke's Bay but, like Aki, he's finding it a great place to raise their son.
Sixteen months old, Go is well-named - he is constantly on the go in the store, where is parents have provided the toddler with his own play area.
Aki says Go was a kiwi from the start. Even before he was born, he would perform the haka in her womb when she watched the All Blacks on television.
She finds women here are less constrained by gender roles. In Japan, a married woman is still expected to be a full-time housewife.
Recently, her mother visited but was only able to stay five days before returning home to work.
"She may get quite a lot of money, but when you look at the quality of life it is just different here," says Aki.
Hawkes Bay Today 28th MAY 2005