Topic: Personal finance 5 Feb 2018
Author: Neil Cubley

Talking money: From Tipperary to Tokyo


Talking money: Fiona Uyema

Fiona Uyema grew up on a small farm in County Tipperary but became fascinated by Japan. She studied Japanese and International Marketing at Dublin City University and, as part of the course, spent a year in Japan in rural Nishiyama, 100 km from Tokyo, living with a Japanese family.

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Fascinated by Japanese cuisine

She quickly became fascinated by Japanese cuisine and remembers sitting in the kitchen chatting to her Japanese homestay mother about the meals she prepared for the family. “The Japanese diet is one of the healthiest in the world,” she says. Japanese food uses very small amounts of dairy products and so is low in fat. The Japanese like to eat fish and soya-based products, daily, so they get plenty of good protein. And Japanese cuisine also includes green tea and miso; foods that are high in antioxidants. As a result, the Japanese have some of the lowest obesity rates in the world and in Okinawa they have one of the largest concentrations of people over 100 years old.

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A cook, a writer, an entrepreneur

Now that the basics ingredients for Japanese cooking are more widely available in Ireland, Fiona believes that creating simple, tasty, healthy, Japanese dishes is possible for everyone. She is now a TV cook, a cookbook author, a food writer and she has her own company ‘Fused by Fiona Uyema Ltd’ which produces range of healthy and tasty flavoured soy sauces.

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Are you a spender or a saver?

I’m kind of in the middle, I suppose. It depends on your stage of life. I was a saver when I needed to buy a home but I’m not a saver now as I’ve got two young kids and a mortgage and it’s impossible!

Have you ever been really hard up?

Of course, yes, as a student. Skint as in ‘call my mother to lodge money in my account as I’ve no money for lunch’ skint.

What was your first job?

My first job was at college in a Chinese take-away where I learned how to use chopsticks! Then I worked as an intern in Japan because I was fascinated with Japanese business culture and did my thesis on that. I was a receptionist bowing to customers when they came in to the company wearing this cure little uniform and I served tea at meetings always trying to remember who to serve first as it was really important to get it right. Eventually, after working at an electronics company and a Japanese bank, I became an English teacher in Japan.

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Are you financially better off than your parents?

Yes, they are small farmers so I would say I am.

What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought?

I’m not very extravagant. Chanel earrings, maybe?

Not an extravagant meal in Japan?

No, because our Japanese hosts would always insist on paying for them!

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If you won the Lotto what would you spend it on?

Oh, definitely a holiday! A month in the sun. I would travel the world. My favourite place is Brazil, my husband is from there (Gilmar was born in Brazil to Japanese parents). I’d definitely go to Japan, of course. I’d love to spend a season in a different part of the world experiencing the different cultures and the food.

What’s the best money advice you’ve ever been given?

‘You get nothing for nothing’. I believe that.

Do the Japanese have a different attitude to money and what can we learn from them?

The Japanese housewife runs the budget for the household. It’s a very tight budget and it’s very controlled and she’s very clever with it. When I lived in Japan everything was paid for in cash, it was a very paper money based economy which is not something you’d expect given their love of technology.

Find out more about Fiona

To find out more about Fiona and get recipes for easy-to-make Japanese dishes, visit her website here.

Bank of Ireland

Topic: Personal finance 5 Feb 2018
Author: Neil Cubley

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