Japan Rice Peace Project

 Group photo for Japan Rice Peace Project seminar - Courtesy of The Santos Marketing Group

Group photo for Japan Rice Peace Project seminar - Courtesy of The Santos Marketing Group

Last Monday, I got the privilege to attend the Japan Rice Peace Project seminar, chaired by Jeff Santos from The Santos Marketing Group, in the presence of Mrs Akie Abe, the wife of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This project emphasizes the role of rice in food action, whether it is sustainability, crisis relief or social responsibility. We often say that rice is in Asia like bread in western countries: a common staple. Well it is a bit more and the recent natural disasters in Japan, such as the earthquake in Tohoku in 2011 followed by the Fukushima nuclear incident, or even more recently the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes are reminders that food is key in case of crisis. 

 Mrs Akie Abe, Mr Hiroshi Sakurai and Ms Nara Takahashi at The Japan Rice Peace Project Seminar

Mrs Akie Abe, Mr Hiroshi Sakurai and Ms Nara Takahashi at The Japan Rice Peace Project Seminar

But it is not as simple as showed the story told by Ms Nari Takahashi, President of NPO Project 88. When she went to Miyagi after the 2011 earthquake, the city was devastated. She flew in some cream puffs to feed the population, but soon realized that many people could not eat them because of food allergies. So she worked for months with a team to create an allergen-free, gluten free cookie.

 Allergen free cookies from NPO Project 88

Allergen free cookies from NPO Project 88

 Allergen free cookies from NPO Project 88

Allergen free cookies from NPO Project 88

I tasted those and admit that at first I was doubtful, thinking about those bland rice cakes you can find at the supermarket. Well, these cookies were simply delicious and some of them, with a cartoon on them (if you look closer, you will see that they represent Mrs Akie Abe!), were fun. I would not have known how they are made, I would have never guessed! 

 The Master of Ceremony, Jeff Santos from The Santos Marketing Group

The Master of Ceremony, Jeff Santos from The Santos Marketing Group

 Mr Hiroshi Sakurai, President of Asahi Shuzo

Mr Hiroshi Sakurai, President of Asahi Shuzo

 Mrs Akie Abe, wife of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Mrs Akie Abe, wife of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

 Ms Nara Takahashi, CEO of NPO Project 88

Ms Nara Takahashi, CEO of NPO Project 88

Of course, when you think about the association of Japan and rice, you think about sake, the national drink. Present at the seminar was Mr. Hiroshi Sakurai, President of Asahi Shuzo, one of Japan major distilleries, who talked about rice, but also people. Yes, the message there was that rice is hard work and most of their production is not done by machines, but by human beings, proud of the quality of the product they deliver. As Mr. Hiroshi said: not "oishi", not worth it. Meaning: not delicious, not worth it. He also said that "sake does not have to exist if it is not good", showing how important quality is for him and his company. So of course I could not leave without trying their sake...

 Dassai 23 sake

Dassai 23 sake

 Dassai sparkling sake

Dassai sparkling sake

I admit that I am not a sake connoisseur, but I like having some with japanese food from time to time. If I had to pick, I would say that my favorite was the sparkling one. There is for sure a market to develop outside of Japan for sake and I hope more restaurants and bar will propose some, as they propose port wine for example. In fact, last Spring was the first time sake was served at The White House where President Obama hosted Mr and Mrs Abe, and it was Dassai. 

 Mr Sakurai proud to see his sake served at The White House

Mr Sakurai proud to see his sake served at The White House

Of course, with the sake, we got to try some sushi made with 3 types of ECO-RICE brand: Koshihikari, Shirafuji and Yamada Nishihi.

 Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

 Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

 Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

 Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

Sushi made with ECO-RICE brand

This was a great seminar that definitely raises awareness and I am glad I was able to join: thanks to The Santos Marketing Group for giving me the opportunity to attend! And as Mrs Abe said, let's not forget that "nature is part of us and we are part of nature".

Enjoy (I did)!

If you like this post, the photos or the blog, please feel free to share it or post a comment. Merci!