Today we’re really excited to introduce you Lillian and Aki from Kokoro Care Packages, they specialize in authentic subscription boxes filled with premium-quality, all-natural Japanese foods delivered straight from Japan to your door.
First of all, thank you for your time! Can you please introduce yourself? How did you two meet?
Lillian: I’m a half-Japanese Canadian currently living in Los Angeles. I spent two years on the JET program in Niigata before returning home to start an 8-year career in finance. I wanted to find a way to share the authentic flavors and food philosophies of Japan with people around the world and to connect them to the local farmers and communities of a place I consider my second home.
Aki: I was born, grew up and live in Tokyo but was always interested in studying and living overseas. I went to study abroad in Australia as an exchange student and spent almost 9 years in finance in IT and trading after graduation. My biggest hobby and passion was bodybuilding and fitness, which I started in 2017 and joined many competitions in the last 3 years including Asian and European tournaments as the Japanese national representative. During this period, I learned a lot about the correlation between the food you eat and the body and mind you build. Looking back, this was the first inspiration to start Kokoro Care Packages.
A mutual friend introduced us during one of Lillian’s business trips to Tokyo. He thought we would get along given our mutual backgrounds in finance and our passion for health and wellness. We met over dinner in Tokyo and immediately connected. The two of us kept in touch as Lillian moved to LA and I was the first person to come and visit her!
How did you come to this idea of offering people who are not in Japan the opportunity to receive premium foodie boxes of yummy Japanese ingredients? When did you start?
Our idea began as a way of sharing authentic foods from Japan. We noticed a big difference in quality and variety when it comes to Japanese food found within Japan and that which is exported and available overseas. We wanted to share the true dynamic flavors of local Japanese cuisine while introducing people to foods they may not have tried before. We also wanted to help those who have been to Japan stay connected while sharing the stories behind the local farmers and producers we partner with. We officially launched in the beginning of 2019 and have received so many positive comments from people who are now finally able to receive the foods they love!
All the products you include in your boxes are natural and representative of Japanese cuisine. Can you please give us some details on how you select them and also give some examples of what types of things might be included?
We start with finding products that are natural, made without chemicals and produced using traditional and sustainable methods. Many of our products are hand-made, artisanal, small batch items that aren’t available outside of Japan. Some are even unique to specific regions and not easy to find within Japan! We also connect directly with the local farmers and producers who create them to ensure they share our passion for quality and authenticity.
We feature a wide variety of items including noodles, sauces, spices, snacks, teas and more! Some of the past favorites have been our Ishigaki Gourmet Chili Oil made from local spices and seasoning from Okinawa, our Japanese Curry Roux which is naturally sweetened with apples from Aomori, our Organic Umeboshi (pickled plums) that are the juiciest and plumpest we’ve ever tasted and our Organic Brown Rice Jam made by a young couple on their family farm just outside of Osaka.
Can you give our readers some insights about what the next box will include?
During a time when most people are unable to travel to Japan in person, our most recent themes have been showcasing different regions of Japan. We recently featured Tohoku, Okinawa and Kyushu! We’ll also be revisiting our yuzu theme in October which is always a favorite!
What is the most fun part of this job? Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share?
Seeing people share their love of our products and hearing about how much our packages mean to people from around the world is definitely a highlight. We see how food is more than what we eat. It can carry and create so many stories and memories. It’s also a joy to hear how much our local farmers and producers appreciate seeing their products being enjoyed by people around the world in places they never expected their products to be. And although Lillian knows what will be inside each month’s and season’s Care Package, being in LA means she doesn’t get to taste many of the products until they arrive at her door, just like everyone else! Aki: For me, talking with our producers and hearing their story is the most rewarding part. Sometimes I feel like I am meeting my grandfather and grandmother. I think that many people in modern society, including me, are losing connection to the origin of food and nature, eventually losing energy to be true to yourself and pursue what you want to do. After hearing the producers’ passion and care they put into their work, I realized that their life and work is so connected, which I did not experience or see when working in finance. Producers have many traditions, stories and passion and I often feel it resonates with me in the way I want to spend my life. They are my senpai (seniors and mentors) in life and great partners in work.
And because we are food lovers here, we need to ask you both what is your favorite Japanese food and why?
Lillian: My mom always gets embarrassed when I say this, but my favorite Japanese food is her homemade nikumaki. Thin slices of beef wrapped around steamed green beans and carrots and dipped in a yakiniku sauce. I always request it whenever I’m home!
Aki: My grandmothers’ ju-shi- (Okinawan seasoned rice) onigiri. My grandmother lives in Ishigaki Island in Okinawa and my mother was born and grew up there. Generally I love food with stories. Even you can’t forget one salted onigiri if it has all the memories wrapped inside. Food with nostalgic feeling definitely tastes way better than any other food.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We truly hope that our Care Packages could help your readers stay connected to their time in Japan or to give them an introduction as they get ready to visit. There are so many incredible and unique places to explore, including spots off the beaten path, that truly make Japan such a special place. We’re honored to be able to share it with them!
Find out more and sign up for your own Care Packages From Japan here on the homepage here.
Thank you both for your time, it was great to know more about you and your company!