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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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A recipe for success

Sakura Koyama

Jun. 16, 2017

When couples from different cultures settle in one partner's country, it can sometimes be challenging for the outsider to fit in. One Japanese restaurant owner has come up with a plan to help foreign wives of Japanese men settle in by hiring them to cook their favorite dishes in her kitchen.

It may look just like any one of the thousands of restaurants in Kobe. But something different is happening in its kitchen.

Each day the menu changes, with women from countries such as Thailand and the Philippines taking turns preparing dishes from their homelands.

"I think this food is so authentic," says one customer. "It has a strong punch to it."

Naoko Kuroda is the owner of Sala. She was inspired to open the restaurant after volunteering at events that engaged non-Japanese residents.

"I was impressed by what they cooked," she says. "They didn't notice, but it was one of their talents that could help them leave the household."

One of those women was Josefina. She moved there from the Philippines after marrying a Japanese man. But when they divorced, she struggled to raise her 4 children alone.

"It was such a depressing...I tried to die," she says.

But Kuroda's restaurant gives women like Josefina a chance to earn a living and meet new people.

"When they hear someone likes their cooking, it can make them confident in themselves," she says.

For more than ten years, one woman there spent most of her time at home, unwilling to venture out on her own. But now all of that is changing.

"Customers always say 'our food is delicious', so that makes me happy," she says. "Now, I have a dream, which is to launch my own restaurant."

"I hope that working here helps them be more outgoing and self-reliant," says Kuroda.

By empowering these women, Kuroda is guiding them towards a bright future.