"I am discovering and becoming the woman that I want to be everyday, a little at a time. My idea of that woman shifts with me organically as I find myself and grow, and as I learn to accept and embrace who I am."
When we think of graceful strength and living with intention, Yuko Yamamoto comes to mind: Born in Japan and raised in Europe and U.S., Yuko has recently moved after 15 years in New York City to the countryside in upstate New York, where spaciousness, land, and slower pace take precedence. Wearer of many hats, she studied classical flute and ethnomusicology in college, and worked in concert production in NYC, presenting a variety of folk and classical traditions from around the world. Her perspective and thought-driven life reminds us to live with eyes open, driven by curiosity, love, and gratitude — below, a visit to her home upstate to spend an afternoon with Yuko.
Photos by The Ingalls
I spent my childhood on the move, from Tokyo to Brussels, back to Tokyo, then eventually to the U.S. in my middle school years. It was my father’s work that took us across the world, and it was my mother’s resilience that allowed my siblings and I to thrive wherever we landed.
She was the constant in our lives ... always available, always filling our table with delicious foods that were often shared with friends. It wasn’t an easy feat learning new languages and making new friends again and again. But she was always there to support, and trusted that we’d come through with strength. These experiences taught me to be resilient and resourceful, present and open... all qualities that I still cherish and strive for.
I studied classical flute and ethnomusicology in college and worked in concert production in NYC. I also taught flute until my children were born. Much of the last decade was dedicated to raising a family, embracing motherhood and being a steady presence for my children while my husband travelled for his work in film. It was a luxury in some sense and a challenge in another. I recognize what a strong foundation we’ve been able to give the children and am grateful for the choices we made. As the children have grown and as the move upstate simplified our lives on a day to day level, I have once again found room to cultivate my passions. I am forging a path working in floral design while continuing my musical practices. It’s at once an arrival and a new beginning, a new opening of possibilities.
Being environmentally conscious
I am discovering and becoming the woman that I want to be everyday, a little at a time. My idea of that woman shifts with me organically as I find myself and grow, and as I learn to accept and embrace the woman that I am.
What has moving to a smaller, more remote place taught you about yourself and your creative process?
I always longed for nature as a child. I was a country girl at heart trapped in a city life. So to move out of New York City after 15 years to a more remote place felt like a return home and a natural transition to a world that is inspiring and grounding. And it was literally a return home for my husband who grew up in our little village. Our path here was meandering and at times challenging, but we are here now and are grateful.
I inherited a beautiful wild cottage garden with the property and have begun to make it my own. I started a vegetable garden. I have found a love for working with flowers: foraging, growing and arranging. I find inspiration in nature - on my own land, on the roadside, wherever I go. I feel grounded and connected, which in turn grounds my family. From a grounded place, I can allow my creative and vulnerable sides to come forward.
I have learned that creating time and space for myself, however small, is an absolute luxury...and an absolute must.
We are blessed to have a barn on our property that was built as an artist's studio and was lovingly used as such for 20 years. It is infused with creative energy and it inspires me in my own practices. Having space is something I couldn’t have dreamt of in our urban life.
We're resonating with Rebecca Solnit's insight on getting lost: “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” Tell us a bit more about how you embrace uncertainty in life.
I embrace uncertainty for the awareness it brings to what I know to be certain. I embrace uncertainty for its inherent sense of potential.
What is a recipe or simple meal you have been making lately? Can you share some ingredients or pairings of flavor that have been front-of-mind?
I have been enjoying sharing a Japanese nabe (hotpot) with many friends, cooked right at the table.
The simple ingredients that come together to create a deeply flavorful broth warms our heart and soul on chilly nights! It is filling and cleansing at once, and it brings everyone who shares it closer together. The essential condiment for our nabe is yuzu-kosho, made from yuzu rind ground up with spicy pepper and preserved in salt. I love to pair that with grated daikon radish and meyer lemon or yuzu juice to flavor the soup.
A collection of rocks big and small that I started with my husband 15 years ago. I have brought them along on all of our many moves.
My children’s drawings
My husband and his partner’s first film together, a bio-pic on Alice Neel, the portrait painter.