to A Taste of the Tohoku where you can expand your repertoire of regional dishes. Each post to this page will feature some Tohoku specialty not included in my e-original book, KIBŌ.

Before the Disaster of March 2011, Kesennuma port in Miyagi Prefecture was a vital hub, a landing base for commercial deep-sea vessels unloading their catch from northern waters. During sanma season (late summer through the fall) Kesennuma alone processed tens of thousands of tons of fish.

The earthquake, aftershocks and subsequent tsunami destroyed the fishing industry’s physical infrastructure, nearly wiping it out. With great courage and lots of support from local, national and international organizations, several of the marine-processing factories have reopened, albeit on a limited basis.

Nibbles, arranged in three clusters on a SANMA-ZARA.
Long, narrow dishes are an attractive way to plate all sorts of food.

A Taste of the Tohoku

Slender, sleek, and steely-colored sanma are perfectly named... in Japanese these three calligraphy say it all!

autumn  秋
sword  刀
fish   魚

One of the challenges in achieving economic recovery in the area has been consumer concern over radiation contamination. The fish brought into the ports that dot the Pacific coastline of the Tohoku area come from Hokkaido and other northern waters. Miyagi Prefecture has taken an aggressively proactive stance to reassure consumers.

The results of rigorous monitoring are communicated to consumers in a clear, understandable way. If you want to check it out for yourself, click here to view the English language page created and maintained by Miyagi Prefecture.

Click on any of the cities or towns listed on the map and a separate screen pops up with the latest test results for various food products. To help consumers evaluate the meaning of the data displayed, the “standard values” column lists what the acceptable limits are. IMPRESSIVE... and reassuring!

Those of you who live in Japan, or are visiting this fall, enjoy the sanma season.

For those residing elsewhere see if you can source sanma or a similar fish. A basic recipe can be downloaded here.

Dōzo, meshi agaré (Eat up!)
No matter where in the world you may be, you can support economic recovery of the region by making a contribution to Sponsor Fellows for Tohoku and Japan’s Recovery. This project, launched and managed by Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities (ETIC) has a dual goal: creating jobs in the area devastated by the disaster and developing a new generation of business leaders in Japan. To learn more about the Fellows Project, click here.
sanma (Pacific saury; Cololabis saira)
In a food culture that places importance on tableware -- choosing vessels to enhance the food -- its not surprising that some types of plates are named after specific foods. Case in point: Sanma-zara (literally "saury plates") are long and narrow to accommodate the fish.
Sanma has always been considered shōmin no aji, or "food for the masses." All the major Japanese beer companies picture smoky, sizzling, slightly charred sanma in their autumn ads. Come the fall, the cooking aromas from salt-grilling these (omega 3) oily fish fill every household in Japan...wafting on to urban streets. 
Salt-broiled whole sanma, served with grated daikon radish and a wedge of sudachi (a lime-like citrus). YUM!