It might make you miss your mom…But it’ll sure make you appreciate her!

Mail-order subscription services are quickly becoming all the rage in Japan, and why not? To have a box of goodies delivered to your door for a single low price every month? So convenient, so easy, and so exciting!

Our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko loves subscription boxes so much that he’s dubbed himself the “Subscription Man“. As part of his duties, he’s taken it upon himself to try out the first month of different subscription boxes to see what they entail and whether they’re worth it or not.

The box he most recently tried out is simply named “Okan” in Japanese.

Now, the Japanese word okan can have several meanings, including “hot sake” for warming up on a cold winter’s day, and “the shakes” like you get when you have the flu. Since the name is written in hiragana, it might be hard to tell what the “Okan” box actually contains. But once you look inside, the answer is pretty clear: “Okan” in the case of this subscription box service, means “Mom”.

There are three different kinds of “Mom” boxes: “Mom’s Feelings”, “Mom’s Kindness”, and “Mom’s Love”, and they cost 4,299 yen (US$29.70), 6,999 yen, and 9,699 yen respectively. Ahiru Neko ordered the cheapest box, which felt a little dirty. There’s no such thing as a “cheap mom”. Just because the price is lower doesn’t diminish its value. Mom is Mom!

In good time, Mom arrived at Ahiru Neko’s door. “Mom! Hold on, I’ll be right there!” he called. And when he opened his door, there waiting for him was…

▼ “M-mom?”

A rather large, cold-preserving delivery box. Not his actual mom, but the next best thing: a box full of freezer-safe, perfectly portioned dishes that looked like they were cooked in his own mom’s kitchen!

Okan is a subscription box that delivers ten, 20, or 30 small food dishes (depending on the subscription tier) right to your door every month. The “Mom’s Feelings” box that Ahiru Neko ordered comes with 10 items, which he could either combine to make one or two meals or use individually to augment home cooking.

Normally Ahiruneko would spread out the portions of Mom’s food over the month, but for the sake of journalism, he decided to try it all out at once. He felt a bit bad, like he was taking Mom for granted eating so much delicious food in one sitting, but he had to remember he wasn’t actually eating his mom’s cooking, hard as it was to believe.

Let’s see what came in the box. First was the “Fire-Grilled Cheese-Stuffed Hamburg Steak in Italian Tomato Sauce”.

Next up was the “Boneless Sawara Mackeral Saikyo-yaki”, which is pickled in white miso and grilled.

Here is the “Steamy Hot Pork Miso Soup”.

“Kyoto-style Oden with Delicious Broth”.

“Tuna Mayo Macaroni Salad”.

“Boneless Mackeral Simmered in a Ginger Sauce”.

“Salt-Grilled Arabesque Greenling with Edible Bones”.

“Ginger Chicken Salad with Edamame and Hijiki Seaweed”.

“Beef Suki Nabe”, tender simmered beef stew.

And “Chinese Style Stewed Pork”. This was Ahiru Neko’s favorite.

Each and every item was already fully cooked, so all he had to do was warm it up either in the microwave or in the pouch in boiling water, then plop it into a bowl or onto a plate and enjoy.

After seeing it all laid out, Ahiru Neko had to say that the advantage of these dishes wasn’t that they could be put together into a full meal–though two delicious meals they did make–but that they could be used individually to supplement a meal already in the works when you just need one more thing to round it out. It’s great for busy people who are cooking to feed a family or themselves but don’t have time to run out for some last-minute ingredients. Who couldn’t use the advantage of just having on hand some ready-made food?

Plus, none of the dishes felt like frozen food; it all had a very homemade feel, which was an extra bonus. The fact that you can keep each item in the freezer for up to one month adds to the convenience. It’s a very thorough and well-thought-out service.

In summary, it’s a subscription box that you certainly don’t need, but it’s helpful to have to support your daily life. It’s a reliable place to turn to when we need help. Just like a real Mom.

There’s also an advantage from an expat’s perspective. How often do you cook yourself a typical Japanese meal of several small dishes? This is a great way to sample different kinds of Japanese home-style food to find out what you like. Not to mention easy and no-fuss!

The service can be canceled online from your account page at any time, so you can try the first month hassle-free. If you miss the flavor of your mom’s home-cooked food, or if you’ve never had a Japanese mom cook for you, then Ahiru Neko totally recommends it. Maybe it’ll even make you appreciate your own mom more!

Related: Okan
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