Ciao and welcome to DC!! Great handle and philosophy!! You are so right, just a touch of love (or bucketful of it maybe!!) makes everything better and little more special!!
I have lived in Italy for several years and came to realise the "Italian food" known and interpreted abroad is quite different from the authentic fare. In your opinion, is Chinese cuisine is the same way? Do you see a lot of difference between what you see in those "chinese restaurants" in other countries and what they actually eat everyday in China?
I am yet to see the picture of the Japanese leaves you have mentioned but could it be "shiso"?
This is the first thing comes to my mind.