updated 1 Dec 2013, 14:03
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Fri, Nov 29, 2013
The Yomiuri Shimbun
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Home is where the salon is
by Sanae Nokura

JAPAN - As she poured a cup of tea for a friend at her home, Hiromi Minato got down to business. "Can you see the tea leaves moving in the teapot? This is called 'jumping,'" Minato said as the water sent the leaves swirling.

This relaxing scene was actually a demonstration. Minato, 41, is preparing to open her own tea salon at her home in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, next spring. Her friends had been invited to the mock hourlong lesson to help her practice instructing how to prepare tea.

Seventeen years ago, Minato married and quit her job at an insurance company. She was busy with household chores and child-rearing, but started to wonder whether she could get more out of life.

She then learned about women who run home "salons." This prompted her to think about changing her lifestyle as a stay-at-home mom. She already had certificates in teaching black tea-making and flower arrangement, both of which are her hobbies, and decided to utilize her skills to open a salon.

Minato spent about ¥15,000 (S$3,092) to buy teapots and spoons for the class, while trying to cut down initial expenditure to stay within her budget.

Women who run salons at home are referred to as "salonese"-a term reportedly coined by women's magazine Very. Very published an article titled "Everyday is a happy day! We're salonese" in its April 2005 issue and referred to certain women living in metropolitan areas, such as executives' wives, as salonese.

At that time, the word "salonese" conjured up an image of financially secure urban women. But these days, a more diverse range of women, such as Minato, are starting up their own salons, and they are no longer confined to major cities.

Kitchen maker Cleanup Corp. introduces salonese on its website "Dreamia salon." As of the end of October, 1,225 people had registered as salonese on the site. Many are in their 30s and 40s.

The company asked them why they became interested in opening a salon. Forty-four per cent of respondents said they wanted to do what they really liked, 16 per cent said it gives them the flexibility to do things at their own pace, and 8 per cent said it allows them to keep working while raising children.

The subjects instructed at these salons vary from flower arrangement, sugarcraft, interior coordination and aromatherapy to techniques in cleaning and becoming more organised.

Nahoko Negishi, editor in chief of Keiko to Manabu, a magazine published by Recruit Lifestyle Co., said operating one's own salon was not as difficult as one might expect. "Opening a salon is relatively easy because you can casually gather a number of students," she said.

Many salonese post updates and information about their lifestyles on their blog or Facebook, while promoting their salons.

"People who feel they relate to the bloggers' lifestyle tend to join the blogger's salon, and many eventually become big fans," Negishi added.

Ayumi Hiranuma, 29, in Tokyo has a certificate in dietary management and teaches cooking at her condominium. Using ordinary ingredients commonly available at supermarkets, she produces beautiful dishes with careful attention to the final presentation.

Hiranuma's class is so popular that it's often difficult to make a reservation. In September, she published a recipe book titled "Shimpuru de 'Otona Kawaii' Motenashi Reshipi" (Simple, yet 'cute adult' recipes for guests). The book was published by SB Creative.

Her salon caters to small groups of four students, and the fee is between ¥3,000 and ¥4,500 per class. Hiranuma said her salon breaks even, as it costs money to purchase cooking utensils and ingredients.

"I feel my job is rewarding when I see my students look happy. I'm also happy to know that what I do is appreciated," Hiranuma said.

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