Interview: Mio from Kiseki Japanese

Mio owns and operates the popular Japanese restaurant, Kiseki and is an all around interesting person!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Mio General Manager of Kiseki, cyclist, and the mother of three boys.

When did you come to Kigali and what brought you here?

In August 2016 we lived in Singapore, I was house wife and life was good. But I have too much energy and I was a bit frustrated. My husband had a chance to move another country, he suggest that we either move to move another Asian country, back to Japan, or to Rwanda. I choose Rwanda without any hesitation or question. My husband is a rare metal trader, he has business in Rwanda and has visited here more than 20 times and always told me Rwanda is a beautiful, safe, and nice country.

What gave you the idea to open Kiseki?

I was dreaming to have our own place where I can express my idea and creativity and make our ‘community’. This idea took shape as restaurant.

First, I love to eat. I have visited more than 1,000 restaurants, from casual to authentic, in Tokyo almost every day for four years. (Most of the time my sponsor, mentor and supporter took me to hang out! I was young!)

Second, I love to cook. I used to host home parties for 10 to 70 people. Needless to say, I also cook for family for every meal. I love to learn and practice microbiotic, vegetarian, vegan, sugar free, fasting, Chinese medicine, organic, law carb, raw food, most of all, healthy eating habits. I believe my family has one of the most strict and healthy eating habits in Africa!

Lastly, I believe food brings people together. Stay together, meet and greet, make something happen.

How has the reception been to sushi by Rwandans? For someone new to sushi, what would you recommend they try first?

After we started the lunch buffet for Rwf 5,000, more and more Rwandans have come to try sushi.

For the lunch buffet we use vegetable and chicken, no raw fish. So it’s for beginners, but some Rwandans hesitate to eat cold rice. We are very happy and honoured once they like our sushi, and some of them try next step cooked fish then even raw fish! I recommend people come to try the buffet. It’s not a Rwandan-style one-time buffet, you can eat as much as you like!

What are some of your favourites on your menu?

Of course sushi! And Okonomiyaki, it’s soul food from my home town Osaka. I’ve been cooking this since I was a primary school student!

Had you owned your own business or worked in the food industry before starting Kiseki?

I used to work in proper Italian restaurant in Tuskiji temple in Tokyo, where I received a lot of VIP customers. For hospitality I worked in the Tokyo office for a 5 star hotel located in the Maasai Mara, Kenya.

I also own my organization for organizing cycling tours in Japan and Taiwan for international cyclists.

How has your experience been so far running a business in Rwanda?

It’s not easy but so challenging and exciting. I’m very happy to be here.

You’re very involved in cycling in Rwanda and have hosted some cool events. Why such a love of cycling?

In 2004/2005 I cycled from Kenya to Cape Town across eight countries over 5,000 km when I was university student. I shaved my hair, wrapped my breasts and put on a fake mustache to pretend I was a boy! Since then I cycled around the world China, Middle East, Cuba, Vietnam, Indonesia, USA… 23 countries in all. I organize cycling tours in Japan, Taiwan, and Eritrea since 2007. I invited six Eritrean cyclists to Japan in 2012 and 2013 and I got to invite team Eritrea to Kiseki this February during the African championship where I met two of the cyclists I’ve invited to Japan!!

We host cycling travellers through Warmshowers and many cyclists who pass through Kigali stay my restaurant and they share their story to my family, staff, and customers.

I believe that ‘bicycling can connect the world’. Beyond the difference of culture, language, belief, social status etc. So it’s my passion to be involved in anything to do with cycling.

Do you have any recommendations for cycling in or around Kigali?

Actually I don’t cycle much here, I always cycle at Waka Fitness. They’re great!

What are some regular events you hope to host at Kiseki?

We already host a regular yard sale and I and the owners of Mamba Club and Waka Fitness are thinking of organising ‘Kimi Fes’, a Kimihurura festival involving businesses and shops around this area.

How do you enjoy living in Kigali and what are some of your favourite things about the city?

Rwandan are so friendly and helpful to mothers and their children. I’m a mom of three boys (aged one, four, and six). I’m doing very well and enjoy my life here with very active, curious, cute boys. I can’t imagine how I would survive in Japan!

Besides Kiseki, what are some of your favourite places to eat at?

Marriott’s Soko restaurant, Rz Manna, Asian Kitchen, and Heaven.

What does the future hold for Kiseki?

We’d like to expand our business, not only a restaurant but other field. To make community, express our creativity, get people together.

Now we have souvenir shop, massage service by blind therapist, volunteer kindergarten for local kids, monthly yard sale, local tailor, advocacy for breast cancer, tourism information, shoe cleaning service, cultural & sports activities, talk session by unique entrepreneurs, lecture for local mother by a midwife etc… we will try more!

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.