#wcw Kristin Eriko Posner

Kristin Eriko Posner (photo by Hannah Bauhofer)

Kristin Eriko Posner (photo by Hannah Bauhofer)

We discovered Kristin Eriko Posner through her Instagram, followed the link to her site Nourish Co., and were intrigued by her story of growing up Japanese American, marrying a Jewish man and converting to Judaism, and starting her own lifestyle brand for ethnically blended couples and multiracial people. Plus she’s created a Japantown walking tour! We reached out to her with more than a few questions.

As a Japanese American, you say you have struggled to "fit in," both in the U.S. and in Japan. How has that changed since marrying and converting to Judaism?

I was born and raised here in California in a suburb of LA. From elementary school through even college, I often felt like an outsider — either because of the “weird” bento lunch my Mom would make me (which is now so popular!) or by being the token “Asian girl” in college. My Mom is from Japan, but my Dad is third generation Japanese American from Hawaii. He’s American through and through — he doesn’t even speak Japanese! I’ve always felt my culture was slipping away from me in a sense, so I decided to live in Japan for a couple of years after college. Because I lived in a very small town, people were so confused by me: A person who claimed to be Japanese, and yet spoke VERY poorly and with an American accent. I definitely did not “fit in” in Japan, either. It was so frustrating, so I understandably didn’t feel connected to my Japanese heritage for a long time.

When I met my very secular Ashkenazi Jewish husband, I knew it would be up to me to share both of our cultural traditions with our children one day. We took a Judaism 101 class and I just fell in love with it and decided to convert. For the first time in my life, I felt at home, at ease, and accepted for who I was. I worried for a while that there wasn’t enough room for both my Jewish and Japanese American rituals and traditions, but it was actually our rabbi who helped me see that there was plenty of room for both. To this day, it’s actually Judaism and my husband who are encouraging and helping me to learn more about my Japanese heritage.

Nourish Co. was created out of my desire to find space for both cultures in my life, and I really hope it sparks inspiration for others who are struggling with this balance. It’s really hard sometimes, but just hearing from other people and couples who can relate make it all so worth it.

What advice do you have for other people who are struggling to fit in?

“Fitting in” is overrated. Though to be sure, it’s definitely more comfortable sometimes! One of my mentors, who is a fellow JOC once shared with me her love of surprising people. Hearing her talk about how much she loved shifting other people’s perceptions of what is typical or “normal” simply by being who she is really inspired me and empowered me to do the same. I think about that conversation with her all the time, and am so lucky I have her to confide in.

As someone who was a huge fan of Detour and did most of their San Francisco guided walking tours, I am very interested in your walking tour of Japantown. Can you tell me more about that project?

Yes! I am so glad you asked. My San Francisco Japantown Tour is an offering I’m super proud of. I created it after the election in 2016, when I started seeing a rise in hateful rhetoric towards the Muslim, Latinx, and Black communities, just to name a few. It is the same rhetoric that was used to forcibly incarcerate Japanese Americans during WWII. As long as I can remember, my elders have told me that it’s my responsibility to make sure that what happened to our community doesn’t happen to any other community, ever again.

At the same time, Japantown is my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco and it’s so special. It is the oldest Japantown in the US, and it’s only one of three remaining (there were 40 before WWII). Miraculously, there are still three of the original families who still run businesses in Japantown. It’s where I do my grocery shopping, where I purchase my matcha (freshly ground just a few days before in Kyoto), where I take my parents when they visit, and where I purchase my New Year’s mochi. I wanted to find a way to share the stories of families who have lived in Japantown for generations, and I wanted to share all of these places that most of my friends who visit Japantown would never know about otherwise. Japantown was 30 blocks before WWII, and now it’s only three. So working to help preserve it and share its treasures is incredibly important to me.

The tour is downloadable and geotagged, so you can take it any time though there are some recommended hours on the tour page. My hope is that people who take the tour will care about what happens to Japantown, and that by bearing witness, they will help me keep the stories of this very special place alive, because they are unfortunately very relevant today.

What are you working on now?

My background is in high-end residential design, and my favorite part of that work was creating custom furniture for clients. It’s incredibly satisfying to have a vision, design it, have it made, and be able to hold a tangible object in your hands in the end! So it has been a longtime dream of mine to work with my favorite artisans to create ritual objects that I hope will become heirlooms.

When we were getting married a few years back, my husband and I found it really difficult to find beautiful Judaica and other ritual objects. This fall, Nourish Co. will launch a collection of limited-edition, contemporary ritual objects, inspired by my love of Japanese essentialism. Each object will be handmade by artisans, and the first collection will include items that can be used for (but are not limited to) Shabbat and Hanukkah. Since I’m only making 50-100 of each product, newsletter subscribers will get first dibs!

How can members of the Women Catalysts community help you achieve your goals?

Pay attention to the rituals you have in your own life (this can be anything from your morning cup of coffee to something you do annually to honor a loved one’s passing). Advocate for yourself, friends, and family to update the traditions that feel “out of touch” to make them more meaningful and authentic to your modern life.

To join the Nourish Co. community and get a monthly letter from me (along with some freebies), subscribe to my newsletter. If you’re into cooking or want to get a gift for a friend, check out my cookbook zine. If you want to learn more about San Francisco’s Japantown, gather some friends and take the tour. Lastly, if any of this resonates with you, send me a note! It always makes me so happy to hear from people.

What's your favorite food to create at home, and what's your favorite Bay Area place to go out for Japanese or Jewish food?

My favorite food to make at home is Japanese food or food from Hawaii. For Japanese food, Rintaro is consistently good and I love the atmosphere. For Jewish food, we often get catering from Wise Sons for holidays and life cycle events. I also love Old Jerusalem in the Mission — it’s run by a Palestinian family.

People often think Jewish food is bagels, lox, and mostly Eastern European cuisine, but Jews have been a diaspora people for a long time, we are all over the world! We’re not just Ashkenazi, but also Sephardic, Mizrahi, and even Japanese and Jewish too :).

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