Akemi Kochiyama is a writer, scholar-activist and fundraising professional based in Harlem, New York. She currently serves as the Director of Advancement at Manhattan Country School, a pre K-8th grade independent school with a mission-based commitment to progressive education, social and environmental justice, diversity and equity in education.
Akemi is also the Co-Director of the Yuri Kochiyama Archives Project and Co-Editor of Passing It On: A Memoir by Yuri Kochiyama (2004, UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press).
APARTMENT OR TOWNHOUSE?
I live in Harlem with my husband and two teenage daughters in a Victorian brownstone that I did a full gut renovation on.
WHAT LIVING SPACES HAVE STUCK WITH YOU?
I have lived in a lot of apartments. My mom passed away when I was 18. Since she passed away, I've moved 17 times.
I lived in a fabulous old mansion. It was all wood paneled and there were chandeliers in every room. I had a terrace that went the length of the building in the back. The owner of the building, my landlord, was the director of the Department of Horticulture for the city of New York. His backyard was fabulous but also sort of raw and natural. And we're starting to work on our backyard now. His garden is definitely going to be an influence.
DO YOU HAVE A SENTIMENTAL ITEM THAT'S MOVED WITH YOU THROUGHOUT?
Yeah. It's funny. One of them is a photograph. I've had it, I think, all 17 places. It's a picture of my mother holding my cousin when he's one. You could tell she's giving him a bath and they're both in a towel. He has a huge afro. She's holding him, and it's just really cute.
Garden Tool Set
DO YOU THINK THAT YOUR HOME STYLE REFLECTS YOUR VALUES?
It's getting there. I think it's warm and inviting. That's important to me.
It includes a lot of original art, which I grew up with. My stepfather is an artist so I grew up just literally surrounded by paintings and art all the time. I have so much art that I'm still managing how to put it up.
WHAT THING IN YOUR HOUSE BRINGS YOU THE MOST JOY?
Art and food. I have a big kitchen. When you walk in my house, you're in the kitchen and I feel like that's where people stay. And I like to cook.
FAVORITE KITCHEN PRODUCT?
Maybe a year ago, I got this new oven that has five burners and it has a gigantic center burner, which I wasn't using because I didn't have a pan that I could use. It's small and it's a weird shape, and I just bought a big griddle pan that's long that you can do 25 pieces of bacon or something. I've been using it on that middle thing and that's been like the most joyful transformation. I feel like its changed my life.
The other thing I can't live without is my electric kettle. I had one for years and then it broke and I was distraught for a week until I got a new one.
Also, I just did a bathroom over, and I have a shower head that I really like. That brings me joy. It's a Kohler shower head. It's really large. And it starts the day off just right.
Kitchen Griddle Pan
Five Burner Oven
Kohler Shower Head
Riding my bike around New York. A few years ago, one of my tenants (we live on two floors and then we rent out apartments) was an architect and, he had this epiphany that he was going to quit his job, go to cooking school, and move back to Argentina. He did this really quickly and he left me two things - his bicycle and his guitar.
DO YOU STILL HAVE THE BIKE?
I have both things. The bike is the best bike in the world. It's a Fuji. It's a fixed gear bike, which I have never had. It's really lightweight. I can carry it anywhere. It's weird, because it's the perfect height. I started riding it when he left and I've been riding it non-stop since then. I'd say that I feel like I've rediscovered New York in a whole different way.
ANY OTHER CAN'T-LIVE-WITHOUTS?
My house is obsessed with this lip balm called Smiths Rosebud Salve. I bought it for my kids, and now the joke is that we've all become OCD. We can’t stop putting it on. No, seriously. Its insane. There's a metal canister version of it too but I think the tube is more efficient because its easier to carry.
Household Appliances I love
Krups electric kettle
Zojirushi rice cooker
Ninja Professional Blender
Beauty Products I can’t live without