Best Nail Art Erina Ever Had
This episode is supported by JapanCulture•NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City.
Susan revisits her regular Japanese nail salon Studio L in the Garment District in Midtown Manhattan, where she speaks with Manami Ichibutsu about nail art. A native of Gifu Prefecture and a painter, Manami started her salon in 2011 and describes how she was inspired to share her art with New Yorkers. Manicures were popularized in the United States before spreading to Japan, but once there, Japanese artists incorporated intricate designs and decorations into durable gel nails. This style of Japanese nail art made its way back to the US and is celebrated in places like Studio L. Susan invites Erina Yoshida, the Chief Operating Officer of the Yoshida Restaurant Group, to try her first Japanese nail art in New York. During the manicure, Susan talks with Erina about Japanese beauty. A native New Yorker and now an entrepreneur, Erina started Beauty by Sunrise in 2017. Although it is currently only an online shop, she shares her plan to open a physical location on the second floor of Japan Village this fall.
As Erina describes, a tenet of Japanese beauty is minimalism—in the number of steps for a skincare routine, in the types of ingredients, and in the scent. The Japanese skincare products sold by Beauty by Sunrise contain ingredients like Camellia oil, sake, and hatomugi, and Susan finds out about Erina’s beauty secrets! Because she works in the restaurant industry, Erina shies away from nail art that’s too flashy, and with the guidelines of “neutral color” and “flower,” Manami creates an omakase experience for Erina, placing delicate dried flowers onto a beige background. Like an infomercial, Erina left the salon saying that it was the best nail art she has ever had.
Japanese Nail Art at Studio L, a Hidden Gem in the Garment District (JapanCultureNYC)
Succeeding the Legend (Japan Eats!)
Drinking With Angel's Share COO Erina Yoshida by Jessie Gibson (Thristy.)
This episode was edited by Toshiki Nakashige.
Susan McCormac: This episode of The Big Root is supported by JapanCulture-NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City. Discover your next favorite Japanese anything at JapanCulture-NYC.com.
SM: Welcome to The Big Root.
Toshiki Nakashige: A podcast about everywhere Japaneseness. My name is Toshiki Nakashige.
SM: I’m Susan McCormac.
SM: Toshiki, what’s your beauty routine?
TN: OK, starting this episode with a personal question... I wash my face in the shower and shave like once every three days… Yeah, my mom also sends me packets of Japanese face masks. I’m not sure what she’s implying.
SM: She just wants your skin to stay young and fresh, no doubt. Well, the theme of today’s episode is beauty.
SM: Exactly! I had the privilege of speaking with Erina Yoshida. In 2017, she started Beauty by Sunrise, which is an online store that sells Japanese skin and hair care products. Full disclosure: I’m a regular customer of Beauty by Sunrise. Erina is the daughter of the Yoshida empire, and while she gets a lot of attention for being the Chief Operating Officer of the Yoshida Restaurant Group and for helping to run New York City establishments such as the popular cocktail bar Angel’s Share and the Michelin Star restaurant Kyo Ya, I knew that she’s also passionate about skincare and wellness.
TN: I knew about Erina’s involvement in her family’s restaurants, but before you proposed interviewing her, I didn’t know that she was doing something so entrepreneurial on her own.
SM: Yes! But before we get to Beauty by Sunrise, I want to introduce the activity on the theme of beauty: Japanese nail art!
TN: Japanese nail art was also new to me.
SM: It’s an important topic, Toshiki. Although manicures were popularized in the US, there is a specific style of manicure that’s Japanese. Japanese manicures use gel rather than polish, and based on my experience, they seem to last longer. And with the manicures comes nail art. The Japanese have perfected the ability to express yourself on your fingernails with a variety of colors and decorations, like glitter, gemstones, and even hand-drawn designs.
TN: There’s a Japanese version of everything.
SM: Right, the average person probably won’t think of manicures when they think of Japan, but it’s a big deal there. So for Erina’s interview, I took her to the place where I had my very first Japanese manicure back in 2011. As a city filled with Japaneseness, this nail salon is actually in New York. It’s called Studio L.
I know this podcast is audio only, but during the recording, I tried to capture the essence of going to Studio L. So I’m talking to myself while going up the elevator.
SM: Ok so I’m at 247 West 38th Street in the Garment District in New York City…
SM: Studio L is on the 16th floor of an office building, so it’s not a place you’d just stumble upon while walking down the street. But I think most people come across the salon on Instagram, Yelp, or Google Maps. You can book an appointment by phone.
SM: …get my nails done today. You really have to know where it is and know the people who are there. It’s a long elevator ride. I want to say hello to Manami.
SM: Studio L is owned by Manami Ichibutsu.
Manami Ichibutsu: Hai, konnichiwa!
SM: Manami started Studio L in 2011. She’s from Gifu Prefecture and moved to the United States the year before opening her salon. I asked her a few questions and gave her the option to answer them in Japanese or English, and in true Japanese American fashion, she went back and forth between the two.
TN: Aw man, The Big Root will eventually be a dual language podcast.
SM: I understood only a fraction of what she said when she answered something in Japanese, but with the magic of podcasting, I can at least summarize what she says.
MI: [Speaking in Japanese]
SM: So when she lived in Japan, Manami enjoyed painting but wasn’t a nail artist, but when she came to the US, she learned how to design and paint nails. Manami says that she wanted to be able to spread her art, and in the Fashion or Garment District in Midtown Manhattan, doing nail art seemed like a great opportunity to do that.
One of the differences between a regular manicure with nail polish and a Japanese one is that Japanese nail artists use gel, and Manami uses what’s called Calgel.
MI: [Speaking in Japanese]
SM: Calgel is durable and water-resistant, and it can last up to four or five weeks, usually without chipping or fading. Manami describes it as a material that’s similar to what’s used for soft contact lenses, so it’s breathable and prevents bacteria and mold. The gel dries quickly, so you won’t smudge your nails the minute you walk out of the salon.
MI: [Speaking in Japanese]
SM: I asked Manami what styles or designs her customers look for the most.
MI: A lot of people bring the picture because they have a lot of social media, so they pick the Instagram or Pinterest, also the magazine.
SM: Generally your customers come in with an idea
MI: Sometimes we do the, like, omakase. The customers say “omakase.”
SM: I like that! Omakase with nails!
SM: I used to be a pretty regular customer at Studio L, and I usually had an idea of what I wanted every time. I would think of a theme. Like for the spring, Manami hand-painted cherry blossoms, and for a Japanese baseball tour, I had her paint Hello Kitty and baseballs on my nails. But the concept of omakase struck a chord!
A popular definition of omakase is “chef’s choice,” like for sushi, but it more broadly means to entrust someone to make a choice on your behalf. It’s like saying, “I’ll leave it up to you,” and can be used for other services like mixing cocktails. At Studio L, it’s not just custom art but more like curated art.
TN: Why is it called Studio L?
SM: It’s like, Studio Love.
MI: I didn’t, my friend decided this name, not me, actually. Doushiyouka.
SM: You’ve said ‘L’ stands for a lot of things.
MI: She said like ‘lifestyle,’ and ‘like.’ That’s what she said; my friend told me.
SM: Manami spreads Luxury and Laughter while enhancing her clients’ Lifestyles.
SM: All right, so this is Erina. Erina, this is Manami…
MI and Erina Yoshida: Nice to meet you…
SM: Erina Yoshida arrived at Studio L, and she took a seat in front of Manami. When I first contacted Erina, she was excited to talk about Beauty by Sunrise, so as soon as Manami started on her nails, we jumped right into questions about Japanese beauty! Before Erina could choose her nail art though, Manami removed her previous gel manicure, and I’ll mention that some of the interview sounds like it took place at a dentist’s office because Manami used an electric filing tool. It sounds intense, but I assure you that she was gentle on Erina’s nails.
SM: I don’t want to talk to you about food, I want to talk to you about Japanese beauty. How do you define what Japanese beauty is?
EY: I think Japanese beauty is all about minimalism. It also really does date back and is very embedded into our Japanese culture, which is always trying to, you know, through practice and throughout the years to kind of improve and perfect certain routines or certain products. So I see that a lot, especially with Japanese products. There’s a lot of basic ingredients that have been around in Japanese beauty and culture, such as sake, rice, and Camellia oil. And now a lot of, even right now US brands also incorporate those key ingredients that have always been around in Japan. So I found that really interesting. But I would say in terms of skincare routine and whatnot if you compare it to, let’s say, Korean skincare routine, it’s much more minimal and much more basic. And it’s kind of to the point instead of adding so many products.
SM: So you’re saying that a Japanese morning skincare ritual wouldn’t have like eight or nine different products that you would wash...
EY: Exactly. You wouldn’t have ten steps in order to get your day going, per se. But yeah, I would say, you know, that there is the double cleansing that still does exist in Japanese culture, I would say, which is also being adapted here, too. So the first cleansing would always have to be all about removing the makeup or the dirt, and then the next one would be about actually cleansing the surface of the skin. But Japanese skincare and beauty is also about just making sure that you always kind of moisturize. It’s more about not just cleansing and toning; it’s more about layering a lot of moisture on your face and making it more mochi-like, a little bit more supple skin, which actually works for all various different types of skin types, which is interesting.
TN: I want mochi-like skin.
SM: Erina mentioned Camellia oil, which is known as tea seed oil or Tsubaki in Japanese. It’s a great moisturizer for the skin and hair and also has numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing joint inflammation. US beauty brands are incorporating Japanese ingredients such as Camellia oil, green tea, rice, and sake. These are themes that you’ll hear throughout my interview with Erina.
EY: Beauty by Sunrise, it started two years ago, at the end of 2017. And it was really just a platform that I really was interested in starting because it really didn’t really exist in New York City. It was also something that I really wanted to educate people on as well. I recognize that even in Sunrise Mart there was a beauty section, but a lot of products were not even translated into English, so a lot of people were not sure what products were for what, you know. There was a thing called “hair tonic” but it was in Japanese, so people thought it was for your face. There were like different situations like that!
SM: I’m one of those confused people Erina describes because before I studied Japanese in earnest, I couldn’t read beyond the katakana for “shampoo.” So translating how to use these products and making them available in the US has been so important for me!
In addition to Angel’s Share and Kyo Ya, the Yoshida Restaurant Group runs the Japanese supermarket chain Sunrise Mart. Their fourth location opened last year as part of Japan Village in Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
TN: Brooklyn Japaneseness! We recorded the first episode of The Big Root in Industry City at Brooklyn Kura.
SM: Right now, Beauty by Sunrise is only an online shop, but Erina has a plan to build a physical location. Japan Village has multiple floors, and Sunrise Mart occupies the first floor. Erina wants to sell beauty products on the second floor.
EY: Currently there is a very limited number of products, but we are planning on having an actual shop on the second floor of Japan Village, and I think the whole concept that I hope to achieve is to start highlighting more small businesses in Japan that really don’t have an outlet elsewhere and start having their products exclusively for Beauty by Sunrise.
SM: Not only will this provide an expanded platform for small businesses, but it will introduce New Yorkers to even more Japanese beauty products! I’m looking forward to trying new hand cream, cleansers, toners, everything! Erina said the second floor of Japan Village will open this fall!
In addition to the exclusive products that they hope to feature, their current offerings include the top 20 best sellers in Japan, which Erina has researched on her trips there.
I think of Japanese beauty as being timeless and classic, but I also recognize the popularity of Japan’s kawaii culture.
EY: It really is kind of the individual portraying their independence. So it’s also through the clothing that they wear, but they also like to express it through their makeup. And I know that there’s different trends, which you can definitely see in Harajuku in Tokyo. I believe one of them—what I found interesting was the “hangover makeup,” which is where you put blush underneath your eyes and blush like right above the apple of your cheeks to make you look like you have an Asian flush, and that’s considered kawaii.
SM: Erina is a lucky one and doesn’t get Asian flush, but she’s happy that there are many ways to express oneself through make up.
Speaking of Asian flush, the labels on some of the products on Beauty by Sunrise will say “sake,” and that’s not because they’re for enjoyment by drinking. It was a surprise to me that sake as well as rice can also be skincare ingredients.
EY: Sake brewers, they have the softest hands because they’re always dealing with rice. So if you take a look at their hands, it’s very brightened, it’s very soft, and I think those are definitely characteristics from the rice. So there is a little bit of a, I guess, a Japanese beauty hack, per se, where, you know, when you wash before you cook the rice and you put water in it, you have that cloudy water, and that’s apparently something good to wash your face with. Or put into a spray bottle and spray it on your face just to add that extra moisture. But it is scientifically proven that sake and rice are actually great beauty benefits. And the popular Shiseido brand SB2, sake is one of their main, you know, ingredients—it’s more of the sake ferments, though—but it’s been proven, and I think there are a lot of sub-brands as well that do use that sake ferment.
MI: Should I cut it or?
SM: After buffing Erina’s nails, Manami asked if she wanted her to clip and file them and what shape she preferred.
EY: This could get definitely shorter, and then, yeah, you could cut—whatever you think.
MI: What kind of shape you like it?
EY: I like oval-ish.
MI: Oval? Like this or like this?
EY: Like this.
SM: Like sake and rice, there are a few other ingredients that are more familiar to me as food items that are used in skincare.
EY: Also yuzu, there’s also green tea, brown rice. There’s also hatomugi, which is Job’s tear. It’s a type of grain, so you can have it as a tea. And I actually personally use—there’s a brand that is pretty much just hatomugi lotion, it has no alcohol in it, and it moisturizes your skin very, very well. And it’s all-natural as well, which is great. Which is from apparently Southeast Asia, but in Japan the tea exists and the grain exists, so that’s used in Japanese beauty products.
SM: I never heard of hatomugi before talking with Erina, but I’m going to add it to my skincare regimen.
TN: Your cat is going to be jealous there’s another mugi in your apartment.
SM: Mugi-chan!~~ Some of my best memories in Japan are spending time in the onsen, and the smell of cedar reminds me of cleanliness and relaxation. I asked Erina what role smell had to do in the types of products she sells.
EY: Scent is very, I think it’s very embedded in Japanese culture, so—this doesn’t really have to do with beauty, but let’s say you go into a sushi restaurant, you don’t want to put too much perfume on because it will, you know, kind of not be the best experience for the patrons next to you and also the sushi chef. So it’s out of respect, but it also kind of goes with all the beauty products as well. It’s very minimal or non-scented So even if it is scented, it’s usually something natural, floral or citrus. So I think on the site we do have floral and citrus, but we also have non-scented items, and I think that goes back to the beauty products of Japan where that’s more of a known scent and known products there.
TN: It sounds like minimalism permeates all facets of Japanese beauty.
SM: Yes, there are distinct scents in Japan, but I feel that the scent of beauty products is more understated. Sometimes American cosmetics and fragrances can be so jarring because the smells are too strong. Walking through an American department store is so different from going to a Japanese one.
Since I was talking to a beauty entrepreneur, of course, I had to ask Erina what her beauty secrets are.
EY: I love DHC cleansing oil. It’s been a cult favorite for a very long time, and it, in Japan it’s actually available in convenience stores—the actual DHC line is available in convenience stores—but it does the job. You just have one pump of the oil, takes away the makeup and dirt. It’s a really light oil doesn’t leave any sticky residue. So sometimes I don’t even double-cleanse The product I use after that foam or gel cleanser. I think the cleansing oil does the job. I also mentioned the hatomugi Job’s tear lotion by a company called Naturie. That’s great as well. It’s perfect to put on after you cleanse your face, so it kind of keeps the moisture in without adding too much moisture or cream, which is what you want to add afterwards. And I also have a Camellia oil—it’s 100% Camellia oil by Oshimatsubaki, I believe. That product does wonders. It does not make you break out. It’s great for any time of skin, really. Even if you have oily skin, it’s really great to keep your skin moisturized and keeping your skin balanced.
SM: She also mentioned two beauty secrets I didn’t expect!
EY: Eyedrops. Japanese eyedrops and sunscreen are my two—I don’t think I can live without them.
SM: I thought that eye drops were only used for dry eyes, but apparently they can have an aesthetic effect too.
EY: There’s so many different types, and I think it really goes back to—I feel like it was kind of a trend for students when they’re studying to make sure their eyes are awake and bright to kind of always put eyedrops in their eyes. These eyedrops are different from the ones they have in the US because it kind of has that cooling effect. So you instantly feel awake. And if you have a red eye, it instantly goes away. If you look tired, you look more awake. I don’t know if that’s like a real claim, but I think you look more awake. Yeah, I think it’s—we do have a few on the site, but it’s interesting how, the way that eyedrops are branded in Japan. There’s one called Beauty Eye that’s supposed to make your eye completely white and no blood vessels are visible. There’s one called PC, which for those that look at a computer screen all the time, and it’s supposed to relax your eye.
SM: She also describes the smooth texture of Japanese sunscreen.
EY: I really like sunscreen because—Japanese sunscreen, especially since it’s not chalky at all, and it has a water consistency. A lot of the newer Japanese sunscreens, they’re called water gel-based, so it’s a gel base that when you put it on your skin, it literally turns into lotion. It feels as though you just splashed water on your face or water on your body. And it’s very effective, and it leaves no type of residue. So, I would say it’s, I would say little by little, a lot of beauty companies and publication companies are also kind of getting more and more information on these sunscreens, so it’s interesting to see what happens next.
SM: I loved learning about all of the new trends in products, but Erina also highlights the importance of self-care in Japanese beauty. It’s not only about using the right skincare products, but getting regular facials and massages as well.
TN: Didn’t you suggest taking Erina to a Japanese spa to get a facial and massage for the interview?
SM: Yes, but I realized that it would be difficult to interview her during a massage. Anyway, Erina also says that here in the US, there is an increased awareness about “clean beauty,” or using products that have non-toxic ingredients. As more Japanese products become available, it’s Erina’s goal to educate the public and show customers how to incorporate them into their daily cleansing and self-care routines. So far, it’s working: Erina says that the majority of Beauty by Sunrise customers are non-Japanese, and that’s something that she is really proud of. Having an online shop allows Erina to reach people all over the country, especially people who don’t live near four Japanese Sunrise Marts.
EY: We also do deliver to Alaska and Hawaii, and we’ve had orders from Alaska and Hawaii, and I think—Hawaii I was actually surprised by because there is a very big Japanese population and presence there, but Alaska, I was, like, oh wow, like, you know. It’s great because I’m sure there aren’t that many Japanese markets or places to shop for, you know, beauty products.
TN: I think this is where I’m supposed to say “everywhere Japaneseness!”
SM: Hahaha. It’s true! One of the good things about Beauty by Sunrise is that it gives people all over the US access to learning about and buying Japanese beauty products.
So at this point in the interview, Manami finished removing Erina’s previous gels and buffed her nails. She was ready to start applying Calgel and nail art. But before we find out what kind of designs and decorations Erina chooses, let’s take a break so I can talk more about JCNYC.
SM: This episode of The Big Root is supported by JapanCulture-NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City. Because of all of the things I’ve learned by co-hosting The Big Root and with Toshiki starting a new career in science media, I’m inspired to do more storytelling on JapanCulture-NYC. I’ll be revamping JCNYC with more featured articles that go in-depth about aspects of all things Japanese in New York City. You’ll still find out about events, but there will be so much more, including profiles on people, businesses, and neighborhoods that have a lot—or even just a little—Japaneseness.
When Toshiki’s not busy editing this podcast… making a documentary… and writing a novel, he’ll also be contributing some feature articles. My podcast co-host is efficient. He’s currently writing an article about where one can find good curry udon around New York. Spoiler alert, you can find curry udon at Japan Village, which is run by the Yoshida Restaurant Group! Toshiki also loves natto, so he might write something about fermented Japanese foods too.
I haven’t been to Studio L for about six years, but producing this episode on nail art inspires me to get back to monthly themed designs. I think I’ll write an article about it! Stay tuned! Discover your next favorite Japanese anything at JapanCulture-NYC.com.
SM: We are back to The Big Root, and I visited Manami Ichibutsu’s nail salon Studio L in the Garment District, where I interviewed Erina Yoshida. She is the COO of the Yoshida Restaurant Group and founder of Beauty by Sunrise, an online Japanese beauty product store. Before the break, Erina shared her beauty secrets and how her business reaches people across the country. Manami finished prepping Erina’s nails, so now it’s time for her to choose her design.
MI: What would you like the design?
EY: I think something minimal. Maybe, I think the base, maybe like nude, like, nudey-beigy color. Maybe like a flower on like a finger each or something? Finger each—I don’t even know what that means! [Laughs] I do like flower.
SM: Erina said she wanted something understated since she works in the restaurant industry. She knew she wanted a simple flower design, but she didn’t know exactly what the design should be. In a way, Erina ordered a partial omakase, putting her trust in Manami to create something beautiful and tailored to her preferences.
SM: You mentioned when you first walked in that this is actually the first time you’ve had a Japanese nail manicure, a Japanese manicure in New York. What have you done in the past, and have you just always gone to Japan to get your nails done, or what?
EY: I think I’ve always been, I guess because I’ve always been around kind of the food and drink industry, I always didn’t have too much nail art for work, but whenever I went back to Japan, I would always kind of try to do something that I could only find there. But you know, obviously it’s here as well, and I’m really excited.
SM: At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, we love Japanese gel nail art because it doesn’t smudge, and it stays looking fresh and new for weeks.
EY: I have a tendency to if I did get a manicure, right after I leave it’s ruined.
SM: Yeah, I do that all the time.
EY: All the time, and it just wasn’t the right thing. But then when I, you know, was introduced to gel manicure, I was like, this makes sense, this is for me. I could leave and it won’t be ruined at all. And it’s very long-lasting, which is nice. And it’s waterproof, and. Waterproof? (Laughs)
SM: All right, so we’re not the most convincing infomercial, but nevertheless, we love it.
It’s hard to describe in audio, but when Manami was designing Erina’s nails, it was almost like a dance. Manami would be painting a nail on one hand and then would gently signal Erina to switch her hands between the two UV dryers and under a lamp where Manami would then paint a nail on the other hand.
So while this dance was happening, we continued talking about Beauty by Sunrise. When the second floor of Japan Village opens this fall, Erina wants to have an employee passionate about beauty to educate customers about the products, whether they be for skincare, haircare, or makeup. She’s finalizing vendors and the design of the space, which she says will make you feel like you’re in Japan.
EY: Oh my god, dried flowers?
SM: Manami pulled out what looked like a pill box, but it was filled with real, dried flowers. They were so tiny and colorful.
Japanese nail art not only includes beautiful colors but also real decorations like shells, gold leaf, and apparently flowers too! For Erina, Manami had painted a neutral tone first, and I was wondering how she would be incorporating the dried flowers. She pulled out a toothpick and, with the precision of a surgeon, started gently placing 5 to 10 little flowers on each finger nail. You can see photos of Manami’s process, as well as the final product on the podcast website
As I was trying to take photos of her nail art, Erina became a little self-conscious about having dry hands, but she attributes her ability to overcome skin issues to the minimalism of Japanese beauty products.
EY: Japanese products also are very good for people with sensitive skin. And also because it has a calming effect as well without too many harsh chemicals. So for me, you know, I dealt with eczema growing up, and you know, it disappeared and then it came back again. And it could be many, many factors that could bring that about. But for me I think kind of slowly changing to just Japanese products really allowed my skin to breathe and kind of reset it a little bit more. And you know, that’s when I became a little bit more aware about more of the chemicals that are actually more prominent in US beauty products. So, right now I do use a lot of Japanese beauty products, but I also use clean products as well, and some of them do have Japanese ingredients in them.
SM: We discussed the positives of Japanese beauty, but what are the negative stereotypes? Makeup can be used for self-expression, but it can also be an opportunity to look like a geisha.
EY: You know, even for me personally—I remember getting my makeup done for an event, and you know, I told them like what I kind of liked, certain colors I didn’t want. I just wanted something very neutral. And they gave me a mirror at the end, and I was like, wow, I look very scary.
SM: What did they do?!
EY: They put purple eyeshadow over my eyes! And also red lipstick! And I was like, this is, this is not okay! They were like, ‘Do you like it?’ And I never say anything like, you know. But I was like, I don’t know about this one!
SM: I’m sure Erina could pull off purple eyeshadow and red lipstick, but I can imagine how shocked she was to see this flashy makeup reflection in the mirror. No Harajuku kawaii look for Erina!
TN: “You need to stop a man in his tracks with a single look.”
SM: Not that long ago Erina could find only articles about Korean beauty when researching Japanese skincare products, but in the last couple of years, Japanese beauty has taken center stage. Erina credits this to the rise in the popularity of clean beauty.
It seems fitting that Erina would start Beauty by Sunrise. At a young age she developed an interest in the creative industry and became intrigued by hospitality when she was a student at Waseda University in Tokyo. She recalls receiving excellent customer service, even at places like McDonald’s, and that really stayed with her. After working at a design museum in Tokyo and an interior design firm and L’Oreal in New York, Erina was ready to take on the role of COO of the Yoshida Restaurant Group.
EY: Growing up in New York City, it was always very diverse, so all the schools that I did attend, it was—I found them to be very diverse. I had friends from pretty much all different kinds of backgrounds. And, you know, I think I really immersed myself into Japanese culture when I attended Japanese weekend school. And I did go to Hoshuko, but I think the longest period that I went consistently was Ikuei, actually, in Fort Lee. Then I went to Hoshuku in Paramus for a little bit. And I also went to juku. So there was a lot of different kinds of Japanese exposure that I had in terms of that. But I think growing up in the city, there aren’t that many Japanese people. I think I met more through the industry, not through school, actually. So that was kind of eye-opening for me.
SM: The Yoshida family epitomizes Japanese culture in New York, and Erina’s upbringing reflects her ability to bridge Japan and the US.
TN: I haven’t interacted with Erina often, but my impression is that she’s a hard worker and loves to focus her attention on projects she’s passionate about.
SM: Beauty by Sunrise is definitely her brand. She actually uses the products that she’s selling.
EY: Because I was born and raised in New York and I understand what the trends are here, whenever I go back to Japan I can see what isn’t available in the US or in New York. And what I found interesting, I’m sure a lot of Americans would find interesting as well. And I think, I think I have that advantage and privilege to be able to kind of spread that awareness. So yeah, I think I’m very grateful that I do know both cultures, and hopefully with that I can definitely spread, you know, the awareness of Japanese beauty.
SM: I drew a parallel between Erina’s and Manami’s entrepreneurship. Manicures were popularized in the US and brought to Japan, where nail art with fantastic designs and decorations flourished. But now this Japanese style of nail art is popular in New York. The trends for beauty products, where Japanese ingredients are found in American brands, have a similar everywhere Japaneseness!
When I asked Manami if she considered herself as an artist, she hesitated, I think out of Japanese modesty. But she really is an artist.
EY: I love it so, so much!
SM: So it’s just as you described: minimalist, a light color that isn’t bold.
EY: Oh my god, I love it! This is perfect!
SM: As you can see, Erina was mildly pleased with her manicure.
EY: Oh, okay, let me—@nailstudionyc.
SM: When I shared Studio L’s Instagram with Erina, she discovered that some of her friends follow them. Erina, Manami, and the other nail artist at Studio L actually had some mutual friends.
TN: That six degrees of Japanese American separation is real.
MI: Her friend working.
EY: Oh really?
EY: Who is working? Dare desu ka?
Studio L Artist: Makoto.
EY: Makoto-san?! Imasu, yo!
SM: Erina left Studio L saying that Manami’s nail art was the best she’s ever had.
EY: This is the best nail art I’ve ever gotten! This is so great, I love it!
SM: Thank you for talking to me and sharing your beauty tips…
SM: And it reminded me of the first time I got my nails done by her in 2011! I actually interviewed Manami back then too and wrote an article on JCNYC, and I’m so happy to see that Studio L is going strong 8 years later. I’ll put the link to my old article on the podcast website, but reading it brought back so many memories of how excited I was to discover Japanese nail art.
TN: In that article you said that you only wanted to have a single color that first time, but based on your monthly themes like the baseball and Hello Kitty, it sounds like you really grew to be more adventurous.
SM: That’s true! And speaking of our guests being featured elsewhere, Erina Yoshida was also recently interviewed on the Japanese food radio show and podcast Japan Eats! You can learn more about her father, Tony Yoshida, and the history of the Yoshida empire, including how he started an ice cream shop in East Village!
TN: Erina was also interviewed for the online magazine Thirsty, about the cocktail speakeasy Angel’s Share. We’ll link that as well.
SM: To shop for the beauty products we talked about in this episode, you can go to beautybysunrise.com. We’ll link to the shop on our website thebigrootpodcast.com. You can subscribe to our mailing list there too by clicking the Subscribe tab or visiting thebigrootpodcast.com/subscribe!
TN: Last time I mentioned that we’re looking for listener support for The Big Root. If you want us to continue telling stories about Japanese and Japanese American people doing cool things and representing Japaneseness across geographic boundaries, please become a patron at patreon.com/toshnaka. That’s the first four letters of my first and last names. The link is on The Big Root website.
So at the top of the show you asked me what my beauty routine was. What’s yours?
SM: I cleanse and moisturize my face with clean-beauty products, and I use Japanese shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. I watched Manami do nail art for Erina, but I didn’t have time to get my nails done, too. So I think I’m going to get a Japanese manicure!
TN: Does nail art spark joy?
SM: Absolutely! It’s a form of expression and a way to be creative. It’s been so long since I’ve had a Japanese manicure, and seeing Manami’s artistry and Erina’s reaction really did spark joy.
SM: The Big Root is an independently produced podcast.
TGN: The theme song was performed by Kento Iwasaki, and this episode was edited by me, Toshiki Nakashige.
SM: For more information about the podcast, please visit thebigrootpodcast.com.
TGN: My name is Toshiki Nakashige
SM: I’m Susan McCormac. Until next time.