Connect
To Top

Meet Naoko Takei Moore of TOIRO in West Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Naoko Takei Moore.

Naoko, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My journey with TOIRO started with just one donabe, Kamado-san rice cooker and my passion to introduce this amazing donabe in the US on August 27, 2008.

As a native of Tokyo, Japan, I not only have grown up eating rice, but also have developed a palate to appreciate the best quality Japanese and international cuisines thanks to my parents. When I first tasted the rice made by this double-lid donabe rice cooker, Kamado-san from Iga, Japan back in 2007, I was blown away! It was no doubt the best quality rice I had ever tasted and didn’t even need any condiments because it was just so delicious as itself. The rice made in Kamado-san was so shiny and fluffy, and it was so easy to prepare. It tasted better than any rice cooked with any kinds of rice cooking tools I had ever tried. So, I contacted Nagatani-en, our relationship was established immediately, and I started importing only a few pieces of Kamado-san at a time in 2008. I built the website myself just to sell this one product, and sold out of my house in LA.

Without any advertisement, just by word of mouth and cooking classes in my tiny home kitchen, everything grew organically. My passion for donabe has grown even bigger, and I continued to increase the lineup of the donabe products in the next years. I also kept being active doing donabe cooking classes and events in order to spread donabe cooking in LA and other cities. In 2015, after years of planning and 3 years of production, I published a book, DONABE (Ten Speed Press). This book was the first English language book dedicated to the subject and the book received many accolades by media including San Francisco Chronicle (The Top Cookbooks of 2015) and organizations including IACP (DONABE was a Finalist for IACP – International Association of Culinary Professionals 2016 Cookbook Awards in the International Category).

On October 10, 2017, my first brick-and-mortar shop, TOIRO, finally opened its door in West Hollywood, LA! The shop features so many different kinds of authentic Iga-yaki donabe and pottery products by Nagatani-en, and also a wide variety of artisanal kitchen tools, tableware, and food items, personally selected by myself, from all over Japan. We also offer cooking classes and events. This shop is a wonderland of unique and specially crafted items and is where you can come visit not just to shop but also to enjoy learning about donabe cooking and Japanese food culture. Concurrently, TOIRO’s website has grown to offer the same wide selection of products plus many more recipes of donabe and Japanese home-style dishes.

All our donabe and Iga-yaki products are handmade by Nagatani-en (established in 1832) in Iga, Japan. These artisanal earthenware products are loved by both professional chefs and home cooks. TOIRO is the official US representative of Nagatani-en, and we are also committed to bring many other hand-selected artisanal products from all over Japan. Our mission is to promote wonderful Japanese food culture and healthy lifestyle through donabe and Japanese home cooking to help making your “eating life” a little more fun and better. I will continue this exciting journey with TOIRO with all my passion.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The very first “import” attempt was for just one unit of donabe (Kamado-san) by EMS (air shipment) and it cost more than the cost of the donabe. Then, I tried to import by sea. I ordered, like 20 units of donabe, and 15 arrived broken. Eventually, I figured out the better shipping methods, then later, I found a distribution partner who can take care of the physical transportation of the products from Japan.

For the first few years of my online shop, I shipped everything from my home. My husband, Jason, helped me with all his spare time. He was basically my shop’s “shipping department”, and packed and shipped all the orders. Because these are breakable items (earthenware), packing was a real hectic work. Besides the double-boxing, a lot of cushion materials had to be used. To pack one donabe, it took almost 10 minutes. When I do weekend cooking classes, he became my assistant and dishwasher. I’m so thankful to him for all his help past years!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with TOIRO – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
My shop specializes in artisanal donabe (clay pot), tableware, kitchen tools, and food products from all over Japan. This is the only shop, which specializes in donabe (we have about 100 different kinds of donabe) in the US. We also have hundreds of other artisanal items, hand-selected by myself, from all over Japan. And, we are not just the shop, but our mission is to promote wonderful Japanese food culture and healthy lifestyle through donabe and Japanese home cooking. We offer cooking classes, cultural events, and also offer many recipes in our website.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I would like to make my shop/ business a bigger market place/ community, where you can experience everything about Japanese food and donabe cooking.

Pricing:

  • Double-lid Donabe Rice Cooker, Kamado-san (3 rice-cup size) $180
  • Donabe Steamer, Mushi Nabe (Large Black) $200
  • Donabe Smoker, Ibushi Gin (Large) $275

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in