From Japan… in search of Kukuxumusu
Some days ago we received an e-mail all the way from the city of Osaka, in Japan. Shoko, who is a real fan of Kukuxumusu, had just recently bought a lot of our stuff from our Online shop, but she wrote to let us know that she wanted to pick up her order in Pamplona, in person!
We did our best to explain all the details and sure enough, some days later, Shoko landed in our store in Mercaderes and holding a gift box of Japanese candy all wrapped up in that cute “Japo” design paper that only the Japanese know how to make.
Since it is not a common occurrence to receive a visit from such a distant land, and as the Japanese go down so extremely well with us, we could not resist having a long chat (thanks to her skill in speaking Spanish, albeit with a Japanese accent) with Shoko, or ‘Choco’, as her foreign friends call her. We soon let her know that that name, as well as meaning chocolate in Spanish, ‘txoko’ was also a very popular word in Basque, with the meaning of corner or place. That fact seemed to go down well with her.
How did you learn about the Kukuxumusu brand in Japan?
While I was preparing my trip to Spain, I came across Kukuxumusu quite by chance in a guide book which mentioned something about souvenir shops and stores. The fact is that the word “kukuxumusu”, did not sound very Spanish to me so I started to surf the word on the Internet. I was surprised to learn that it was a Basque word and that the trademark has started up in Pamplona.
Had you known anything before that about Basque culture?
I was really interested in visiting the Basque Country but I found very little information in Japanese. The funniest thing of all is that it turned out that the Kukuxumusu headquarters was in Pamplona, which is one of the cities which I had marked out to visit.
What attracts you about the Basque Country?
What I find interesting about the Basque country is the fact that its people and its language remain a mystery within the mists of time. It is still not known where exactly they come from. I am really keen on learning different languages and for that reason the Basque language interests me too. There is no similarity at all between Spanish and Basque and yet both languages are spoken within the same region. That is what interests me a lot.
At Kukuxumusu we have collaborated with Japan more than once. Had you heard anything about that?
No, not at all. But I learned through the Internet that, when the big earthquake happened on the Eastern side of Japan, Kukuxumusu contributed a solidarity drawing for the fishermen in Fukushima. That makes me feel very grateful indeed.
Did you or your family suffer in any way as a result of that earthquake in 2011?
No. At that time, I was living abroad, but in any case, luckily, my own family did not suffer any direct consequences. In any case, I don’t come from the Eastern side but in fact from Nara, a city which lies close to Osaka, which is visited by a lot of tourists as it is a very old Japanese city and it holds a lot of temples, palaces and typical parks. It is also quite close to Kyoto.
When you read the word ‘Kukuxumusu’, for the first time, what does it make you think of?
I find it difficult to say it and it sounds very strange to me when I compare it with my own Japanese language. Although, at the same time, I find it captivating because it only has the one vowel – the u – and five times! It seems like it is some kind of word game. The fact is, Basque reminds me of Hungarian a lot, because both languages use the ‘k’ and the ‘tx’.
¿How would you say “kiss of the flea” in Japanese?
Well, it would be ‘nomi no kisu’. ‘Nomi’ means ‘pulga’, ‘no’, is ‘of’, and ‘kisu’, means “kiss, and in fact it comes from the English word.
Which Kukuxumusu character do you like best?
I really like a lot of the drawings but I especially like that one of the shark which is eating an octopus as if it were an ice cream cone and that other one of Little Red Riding Hood kissing the Wolf.
And what is your favorite Kukuxumusu product?
A towel which holds that drawing of the shark eating the octopus, although I must admit I feel a bit sorry for the poor octopus…but the fact is I just love the colors on that drawing.
What do you use the Kukuxumusu mug for?
I keep it in my office. I usually take some miso soup from it as I find it just right for me.
And, apart from the miso soup, what other things would you have for lunch?
In this photo you can see my lunch, a little light today. It is a single dish with: ‘onigiri’, a typical Japanese rice dish; takuan, a kind of vegetable dish in brine and which is made from turnip; ‘tamagoyaki’, which is something like a tortilla, made from egg; ‘goma ae’, vegetables in a soya and sesame sauce and finally, ‘kintokimame’, a type of stew made from pulses with a sweet seasoning.
Those deer that appear on the table cloth, do they have any special significance?
The deer is the symbol of Nara, the city which I was born in. there are lots of deer kept in the big park in Nara and the tourists go there to look at them.
What do you think of Spain as a tourist destination?
I have already been to Bilbao-Bilbo, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastian, Pamplona-Iruñea, and I was charmed by all of these places. I really like Spain a lot, its culture, its landscapes, its way of life…it seems that everything moves slower than in Japan. I wouldn’t mind staying and living in Spain for a while.