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