Maho Quinene was meeting with a couple of friends one day in early November when they got the idea to launch a series of videos showing how to cook simple, homestyle Japanese dishes.
They, like most of us, had been spending more time at home due to islandwide public health restrictions. Why not help teach other Guamanians how to make some of their own favorite comfort foods?
"Many people have the time to cook at home," Quinene said during a recent phone interview. "It's a good time to learn something new for them, too. So that's why it's the best idea to do it, because you can do it like a hobby."
It didn't take long for the project to go from idea to execution, she said.
"We were talking and having coffee, and maybe two days later: 'If you have time, let's do it.'"
The three Japanese women – Quinene, Aya Nakamura and Rika Usui – got together and shot their first video, "How to Make Nikujaga" – a popular Japanese stew made with sliced beef and shirataki noodles slow-cooked with assorted vegetables.
"And then I edited and we showed it to Tokyo Mart," Quinene said. "Everything, it's one week maybe."
Tokyo Mart has been a strong supporter since then, providing ingredients for the team's recipes and presenting the instructional videos on a screen at the Tamuning store.
"The customer can see the video and buy the items and the ingredients there, and then they go home and they can watch YouTube and then cook," she said. This not only helps customers, she said, but the store's staff as well, since they're often asked how to make Japanese dishes and how to use some of the ingredients.
"We know when we go to Tokyo Mart, or anyplace, everybody really likes Japanese food, and sometimes local people ask me how to use a product or something at Tokyo Mart. So maybe they don't know so much," she said. "But I know they like to order Japanese food at the restaurant. So we decided exactly what kind of items they can find and how to use them. If you see the videos, everything's showing in the end – 'We use this item, and we found at Tokyo Mart this package,' or something."
'We're all helping each other'
Nakamura, with a decade of experience catering Japanese food on Guam, gathers recipes and does the cooking. Quinene records the process with her iPhone before editing the clips together on her home computer. Finally, Usui uploads the videos to their YouTube channel, Japanese Cooking on Guam, and also handles the related website.
"The three of us, we're all helping each other," Quinene said during the telephone conversation, as the trio worked on another half-dozen recipes in their home kitchen setup.
The channel's subscribers aren't the only ones making time for self-improvement, Quinene said. Shooting and editing video is a new skill she's been learning.
"I'm an amateur; I never do professional work like this. So I study and practice. Still practicing. But it's good to study something new during the pandemic."