On a recent announcement for a one-day cooking school, Katy Onda wrote that she would introduce a British menu suitable for the summer.
Her menu included curry with jasmine rice, pickled vegetables and eggs and oatmeal biscuits. She would provide jars, so that participants could carry their pickles home. The cooking class provides one aspect of Onda’s outlook, that “life is interesting and exciting.” She means everybody’s average life, to make of it what you will.
She has always been sprightly, enjoying the life around her and her part in it. It took her some time, but when she set herself up as a total life coordinator, she realized she had received her mission.
Onda was born and grew up in Yokohama. She said, “When I was little, I had beaches to play on, and high hills behind the house. People were friendly. They came from different backgrounds and made a unique environment. I always loved it there.”
As a young woman, she began working in a company in Shinagawa. “I had been learning flower arrangement since I was 14, and received my master’s certificate when I was 22,” she said. “I began to want something different. In Tokyo I took a flower design course. Western flower design surprised and delighted me, and I decided to move into the flower design world.” As a designer, she transferred to the well-known Hibiya Kaidan florist shop in an international hotel.
There she met the man she married. “He was relocated to another Hibiya Kaidan outlet in Yokosuka,” she said. “When I became pregnant, we decided to move to Hayama.”
Life in Hayama pleased Onda. “It has the same kind of environment as Yokohama, with friendly, unusual people,” she said. “Both of us loved the country life. When my husband was to return to work in Tokyo, we couldn’t move back to the busy world. I had some friends married to American servicemen, and they used to invite me to lunch at the base. I took my daughter to a babies swimming course at Yokosuka. I decided to apply for a job there.” Her subsequent employment at the Yokosuka Naval Base continued for 20 years.
As before, Onda made the most of her situation. The mix of people, their individual opinions and the different cultures they brought together intrigued her.
Exuberant, she said, “I liked it.” In her work she moved through varying responsibilities. She became a claims examiner, looking into shipments of servicemen’s goods that went astray. With upgraded computer skills she turned herself into a printing specialist, and an editor of publications. She continued as a budget analyst concerned with the financial operation of a naval unit. All her work was, she said, “challenging and exciting.”
Hers was a double life, though, for all along she had other ideas in mind. She said, “Since my childhood I had read children’s books in English. They influenced my being interested in other cultures. I always loved old things and used them in daily life. They made me think of olden times, and of the people who used these things.
“I was so glad if by chance I came across charming antiques. I wanted people around me to appreciate everything the way I did.”
Onda resigned from the Yokosuka Naval Base in order to concentrate on launching her antique and teaching business.
Her concept of total life coordination included “cherishing antiques in everyday usage, flowers, cooking, doing my own gardening, inviting friends to tea in a cozy atmosphere.” Nowadays, she says she has 200 students on a monthly basis. At her home, Katy’s Hayama, she holds six special classes. She also teaches six outside classes, and has some groups of university students.
Onda travels often to England, partly in search of antiques there. She takes groups of like-minded students with her. “It is such fun to introduce them to customs there, to ideas and the essence of the seasons,” she said.
When she is teaching young people, she tells them, “Please do not throw away the things in front of you. Pack them away in drawers, because when you are older you will appreciate what you have and understand how precious those old things are.”
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