Fukushima and food

March 8, 2012

This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—but they hit on a Friday afternoon, so I'm thinking about them today. You may remember I visited recently, at the invitation of their government, to take a culinary tour of the recovery areas. I posted about sushi, sake, and the Nanohana Project while I was there, and spoke with WBEZ's own Jerome McDonnell on Worldview when I returned. Jerome has also been reporting on one year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and what it means to us.

This weekend, at the annual International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place—a trade-only event where vendors, buyers, and media from around the world pick what we'll buy next, and in what color—the Japan Pavilion will feature 10 manufacturers from the areas hit hardest.

My trip to Japan began and ended in Tokyo, as most do—and as a hardcore Japanese food fan, included a must-visit to a depachika, a department store basement foodhall. Depa is short for depato, the Japanese-ish word for department store; chika, the Japanese word for basement. Having just returned from the recovery areas, I was especially interested to see what products from there were making it to market in the big city. One of the most beautiful was miso from Fukushima (top), in the regional specialty section at Mitsukoshi (above).

At McCormick Place on Monday, the Japan Pavilion will host a reception, this year with sake from the featured areas: Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima of the Tohoku region. At Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, I was told that the sake from Fukushima (above) is tested at every stage of production, from rice, to water, to finished product—and that it may be one of the safest products in the world right now.

Yes, there are definitely still questions about food safety there—as there are here. Pink slime anyone? They're questions we should be asking.

Some things, however, shall remain a mystery (below).