Kanako Asai Richard owns Kawaii NOLA on Magazine Street. She recently spoke with Nola Family about her business and life as a mom.

Kanako Asai Richard has always been a fan of Japan’s “culture of cute.” Her family is from Japan, and as a child the Broadmoor resident visited often, cementing her love of all things kawaii, which means cute and lovable in Japanese.  

The boutique, which the former school social worker opened in 2013, carries a variety of merchandise inspired by Japanese cute culture and Tokyo pop fashion.  

What inspired you to launch your own business?  

When I was a social worker, I worked for Mignon Faget, so I gained experience with buying, merchandising and opening a boutique. Around the same time, my parents returned to Japan, and my husband, Adam, and I went to visit. 

During the trip, we talked  about how there weren’t any places to shop for kawaii items in New Orleans. These conversations sparked our idea to open a store dedicated to all things cute.  

What made you think kawaii culture and New Orleans would be a good match? 

To me, kawaii culture is about what makes you feel happy. As we grow older, we start to forget about having fun because we have so many daily obligations.

New Orleans is unique in that we love to dress up and celebrate life. It seemed like a natural fit for New Orleans to embrace kawaii culture and Tokyo fashion.   

Kawaii NOLA

Do you find owning your own business gives you more flexibility to do things with your daughter? 

I am definitely lucky that I can create my own schedule. I've also been bringing my two-year-old daughter, Mei Janette, to work with me since she was born.

I've recently been able to hire staff to help with the shop, so I have more flexibility to spend quality time with my daughter while also getting work done.  

What's your favorite Japanese snack food?   

I loooooove matcha green tea Kit Kats! Really, anything matcha is my weakness. 

Kawaii NOLA, 4826 Magazine St., New Orleans. 504.899.2426. kawaiinola.com.