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Japanese Embassy Showcases Its Agricultural Delicacies

By Candace Huntington

On July 11, Washingtonians sampled Wagyu beef, wagashi confections, whiskey and a diverse range of Japanese cuisine products at the embassy’s annual reception showcasing Japan’s agricultural industry and its popular foods.

Since its founding in 2000, the reception has allowed U.S. farm experts and Japanese government officials to experience everything Japan’s agriculture industry has to offer.

This year’s reception, hosted in collaboration with the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Japan (JA-Zenchu) and the Japanese Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC), featured several Japanese dishes from provinces across the island nation.

Diplomats, U.S. agriculture experts and Japanese Embassy officials gathered at Japan’s “Old Residence” in D.C. for the annual “Evening of Food and Agriculture” reception on July 11. (Photo: The Embassy of Japan)

Hiroaki Kojima, the agriculture counselor of the Japanese Embassy, welcomed guests to the reception, emphasizing agriculture as a way in which the U.S. and Japan have forged such strong cultural ties.

“The many guests we have here demonstrates that the U.S. and Japan’s agriculture industries have a great relationship,” he said.

Kojima mentioned the recent heavy rains that have struck western Japan, leading to landslides that have caused over 200 civilian casualties in the region. The deadly rains, along with record-high temperatures, have taken a toll on agriculture as well. The production of Dassai sake, one of the featured products at the reception, was halted at two breweries in the Yamaguchi Prefecture due to the extreme weather.

Guests were treated to different sakes (Japanese rice wine) from breweries across the nation. (Photo: The Embassy of Japan)

Another sake, Daishichi from the Fukushima Prefecture, was served. Once the agricultural center of eastern Japan, the region’s agricultural viability was called into question after the 2011 tsunamic and subsequent nuclear fallout left consumers concerned about possible radioactive contamination. While many products were unaffected, over 50 countries have placed bans on imports from Fukushima. Kojima expressed thanks to the U.S. for its support in the efforts to rebuild the region.

“In regards to the sake from Fukushima, we’ve had incredible support from the United States and other countries. Today, we see much progress in the reconstruction of the Fukushima region, and I wish for your continued support in the rebirth of this part of Japan,” Kojima said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Ted McKinney spoke on the strong business relationship between the U.S. and Japan that has grown through agriculture. “The U.S. had the all-time high record number of companies who wanted to go do business in Japan, and an all-time high record number of State Departments of Agriculture — 13. So if anybody is wondering whether the trust or the relationship with Japan is waning, I hope that shuts the door on that thought,” McKinney commented. His sentiment was reinforced by a Japanese announcement earlier in the day lifting the ban on sheep and goat meat products exported from the U.S., marking the first opening of the Japanese market in 14 years to these kind of exports.

Intricate patterns are etched onto the surface of wagashi, the Japanese confection often served with green tea. (Photo: The Embassy of Japan)

Other featured products included the famous Wagyu beef from the Kagoshima province that was served in shabu-shabu style, in which the meat is boiled in a hot pot. The term Wagyu refers to any of the four breeds of Japanese beef cattle, with “wa” meaning Japanese and “gyu” meaning cow. The beef is particularly popular among Americans.

Dessert offerings included many variations of wagashi, traditional Japanese candies. Created to celebrate the changing seasons, the sweets are widely known as the “art of the five senses” because the flavor, sweet scent and varying textures come together when they are consumed. Intricate designs are often etched into the top of the candy, transforming the confection into an art.

Guests also sampled Japanese whiskey from the global company Suntory, as well as “Silky Pork,” an American-made meat product designed specifically for Japanese consumers. The reception concluded with an elaborate display of traditional sushi, made with “Tsuya-Hime” rice from the Yamagata Prefecture of Japan. The range of products served, from premium sake to sweet, fluffy wagashi, demonstrated the diversity of Japan’s agricultural offerings.



Candace Huntington is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.



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