Kiki Kudo is a writer, chef, and music producer based in America. She documents and reflects on moving from New York City to the countryside in Connecticut during the pandemic; this is her steady life.
My story begins in Japan. For a long time, I wrote articles about art, subcultures, and fashion for magazines. I’ve also written books. I was blessed to work as a writer from the late 90s, but my zest for everything vanished in 2011, the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake. That same year, on Halloween, I moved to New York on a journalist visa. Since then, I’ve worked as a chef and musician, using food and music as communication tools.
A decade has passed since I started hosting dinners, making music on my computer, and drawing based on concepts related to food. All the while, I’ve been trying to avoid writing.
In 2018, I married my partner, Brian Close, an animator, visual artist, and musician. We lived in a loft in Soho, New York, but moved to a farmhouse in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 2021, the following year of the start of the pandemic.
We had one condition upon moving since we enjoyed our freedom in our Soho loft: no neighbors. We were able to play music anytime without any complaints from neighbors because no one lived in our Soho building. I felt like it was a miracle when we found an isolated farmhouse surrounded by pastures full of horses and cows for rent—a 36-acre plot of land. Today, the house is our living space and creative studio for food, music, and visual art. It might come as a surprise that I’m leading quite an active life here.
New York City is a two-hour drive away, so I can go there if I miss being around people’s energy. But this physical distance hasn’t made me feel lonely thanks to increased online communication, such as FaceTime, Zoom, Twitch, VR, and games. I enjoy getting inspired by my new environment, just like when I left Tokyo. I initially didn’t want to write again, but I’m grateful to be given another chance to write for an online magazine. I plan to write about my life in two places, one in the American countryside, where I started living for the first time, and the other in New York City, where I return occasionally.
We moved at the end of January 2021. We moved house by ourselves thanks to our friend Nathan and his truck. Nathan is one half of the artist duo Blazer Sound System and is a DJ, filmmaker, and producer. I DJed a lot for his friends’ and his dancehall and techno parties around 2014, and I’m also in HTRK’s “Chinatown Style” music video directed by Nathan. I released my first mixtape on his cassette label. As friends, we’ve shared many moments of joy in New York.
Once the pandemic hit, we experienced lockdown and the pausing of time. We found ourselves in the vortex of an astronomical paradigm shift we couldn’t seem to comprehend. It felt like we went back to the beginning. Once lockdown was over, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, and protests were held every week. We were relearning justice and equality. Things were still unstable, but people slowly started returning to the streets. With that said, covid showed no signs of stopping, and I held my breath as I continued living in a city that had lost its function. I eventually began envying those who lived among nature.
Being physically close to others has been put on hold because of covid. It’s even hard to meet up with our neighbors now. I didn’t hesitate to move to the countryside because I felt it would be the same wherever I went. While driving his truck, I remember how Nathan said, “The community we built will never change, no matter where you go.” I can be myself whenever I return to the city and feel like I’ve come home precisely because I have a community there.
My friends Evan and Liutas, who live in upstate New York, played a big part in my countryside awakening during the pandemic. They’re the pioneers of what I like to call “dual life,” as they also have an apartment in Chinatown. Their upstate home is an oasis, a place to escape all the noise. Their renovated farmhouse sits on a green plot of land in front of a river. Beautiful plants that almost seem artificially designed surround the place. They have a minimal kitchen, living room, vintage carpets, antique interior, a fireplace that burns brightly, and a classic cigar and library space. Liutas’s eye for detail as a gallerist is reflected in every corner of their house. Everything there feels fresh and beautiful because of the blend of the above elements and a farmhouse.
In the summer, you can run out of the living room and jump straight into the river. The gap between the intense sun rays and cold water feels good on the skin. Once night falls, you can fall asleep to the sound of frogs and bugs. As such, I fell in love with their vibrant lifestyle in nature, one that couldn’t exist in the city. Lockdown ended in April 2020, but we still didn’t have enough information about covid. Regardless, Brian and I, wanting to feel rejuvenated, had the best time in nature because Evan and Liutas kindly let us stay at theirs. We began searching for our new home in November of the same year. But that story’s for another time.
Translation Lena Grace Suda
Edit Nana Takeuchi