Yakushima Time

Noriko Uchimuro / Owner of a natural food store “Tsubaki Shoten”(Camellia Grocery)

After spending two years in Canada studying the outdoors, Noriko Uchimuro wanted to live where there was an ocean, mountains, and a river all in one place. When she found Yakushima on a map, was inspired to move here. Seventeen years have passed since.

Early on, Ms. Uchimuro enjoyed the beauty of this island’s nature as an eco-tour guide, and over time, when she got to know interesting people here on the island, she began to think about staying forever. Five years ago, when Ms. Uchimuro gave birth to her son, her thinking with regard to food changed. When she found a vacant store in a good location, she decided to open “Tsubaki Shoten,” a store selling natural food and other environmentally-friendly products. The store is across the street from Yakushima high school in Miyanoura, the largest town on the island.

Ms. Uchimuro sells additive-free and organic seasonings and food products as well as a variety of environmentally-friendly and healthy detergents, towels, and the like. Determined to sell grains and oils grown and made in Kyushu (the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands), she and her family traveled Kyushu extensively in search of such products before opening the store. Also, a shelf with items “organically made in Yakushima” is a favorite among travelers. Ms. Uchimuro is now planning to renovate the store so that she can sell take-out drinks as well.

Ms. Uchimuro’s store also offers products that she has used and likes such as towels, organic-cotton socks for kids, and toys that are safe for babies to put in their mouths. And an area in the back of the store where children can play enables parents to take their time while shopping.

While giving her all to the management of the store and the raising of her two children – a five-year-old son and fifteen-month-old daughter – Ms. Uchimuro dreams of creating a network for raising children on the island. In the absence of a full-time pediatrician on the island, Ms. Uchimuro wants to create an environment where families can feel more secure and enjoy parenting.