Shokuraku Kobo in Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture, is a French restaurant which cares very much about older and disabled people. Using local vegetables bought at the farmers’ market of Japan Agricultural Co-operative (JA) Topia-Hamamatsu, it cooks beautiful French “care foods” or dishes prepared specifically for the customers who need special care for eating. It opened in 2009 as an authentic French restaurant where care givers and receivers can enjoy dining out together. Since then, it’s always crowded with people from not only from Shizuoka Prefecture but also from other prefectures.
The restaurant is run by a 64-year-old owner chef, Yoshinori Furuhashi, who used to be a master chef at one of the major hotel restaurants in Shizuoka Prefecture for a long time. At the age of 27, he started supporting facilities for the elderly as a volunteer chef to cook and serve course menu for special occasions. Looking at the people smiling so happily while eating what he prepared, he gradually came to think that he wants to have his own restaurant for people of all ages and abilities.
Some said it’s a bad idea and he may lose money, but his wife Tazuko, 63, was different. On the contrary, she got a qualification of care food cooking master to help his dream come true.
The restaurant serves a la carte dishes in addition to daily specials, lunches and dinners. Care foods are prepared by cooking them normally, processing in blender, straining and reshaping them in the form of jelly so that they can be eaten without chewing. However, it requires twice as much ingredient and four times as much works and handling to cook them, and so, they are served with the additional cost of JPY 500.
The restaurant pays close attention to its facilities, too. For example, its restrooms are designed for various customers including wheelchair users and ostomates. All tables are arranged rather sparsely to make them wheelchair-accessible. There are cane holders, slopes and big parking lots, too, and partner dogs, hearing dogs and guide dogs are welcome.
As a result, it has a wide variety of customers including a cerebral infarction patient and his wife, a bedridden person on a stretcher, and a microbus tour groups coming all the way from Yokohama or Mie Prefecture. Many of the older customers eat everything on their plates probably from the joy of being able to dine out.
Furuhashi also assists the activities of the Women’s Group of JA Topia-Hamamatsu as a teacher at care food and healthy food cooking classes as well as a lecturer at elementary schools. “The will to eat will bring the will to go out, which in turn will bring the will to live. I want to make this restaurant a place where people of all abilities can enjoy themselves,” he said.
(Jan. 21, 2015)