Kokoro Cares: Providing tasty Japanese care packages

In 2016, Lillian Rowlatt and Aki Sugiyama met for dinner through a mutual friend while they were both working in finance in Tokyo. With passions for health, wellness and fitness, the two women discussed the importance of food, including its community aspect and the significance of sharing a meal with family and friends. The dinner sprouted a partnership and the eventual launch in October 2018 of Kokoro Cares, a subscription service that allows people to purchase Japanese care packages in the United States or in Japan.

Rowlatt says the quality of food in the United States is not the same as in Japan.

“The food in Japan is incredible. I think they tend to eat locally and seasonally,” Rowlatt explained. “They use simple ingredients where you can really taste the flavor, the natural energy of the food.”

Kokoro Cares sells two care packages: The Monthly Nourishing Essentials, which contains approximately five to six food items. The Quarterly Seasonal Delights package comes with the change in seasons, in March, June, September and December. The package includes at least seven food items, with a local gift from Japan, such as a collapsible bento box, teas and coasters, as an added bonus.

HEARTFELT ­— Kokoro Care Packages delivers quality all-natural Japanese foods from Japan to one’s door. courtesy photo

The Nourishing Essentials option is $55 and the Seasonal Delights package is $95 per month with prepaid choices available for both packages.

Additionally, Kokoro Cares likes to include an ingredient or dish that is healthy and can be a good starting point for a meal. Examples include yuzu (citrus) soba (buckwheat) noodles and five grain udon (wheat flour noodles), Rowlatt said.

“It won’t be something plain and ordinary that you can get from your local Japanese store,” Rowlatt said of the heartier dishes included in the packages.

Sugiyama, who resides in Japan, goes to natural food expos to scope out potential food items for the care packages, Rowlatt said.

“Every month, we like to come up with a seasonal idea … yuzu is a fall, winter fruit in Japan, so that’s why we did a yuzu box. We did a sakura (cherry blossom) box in the springtime,” Rowlatt stated.

The contents inside the care packages change each month. While Kokoro Cares does not like to repeat the same products in multiple boxes, sometimes, they will bring back subscribers’ favorite dishes. Kokoro Cares has done an Okinawan box, and this November, the theme is fermentation, Rowlatt said.

Kokoro Cares has a section on its Website that highlights the people who produce the food it provides. Rowlatt says traditions keep the products going.

“Especially with the changing demographics in Japan and the aging population, some of our products have had centuries, literally centuries of traditions behind them.” Rowlatt said.

To learn more about Kokoro Cares, visit https://kokorocares.com.

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