New Trend in Cross-Regional Collaboration: Six Shopping Streets Come Together in A Gourmet Cuisine Competition for Rebuilding

On January 20, representatives from temporary shopping streets from Miyagi and Iwate prefectures converged at Miami-machi Murasaki Market in Kesennuma, Miyagi for “Gourmet F-1 Competition for Rebuilding.” About 1500 people came to the event from Miyagi as well as outside theprefecture.

Kesennuma took the top prize among six shopping streets, each with its own unique recipe

Six shopping streets participated in the competition. All six dishes were unique recipes featuring local ingredients and four were brand new, created especially for this competition. Three from Iwate were: seaweed chiffon cake by Otuchi-Kita Elementary Fukko Kirari Shopping Street, pacific saury dumpling soup by Ohfunato Yume Shopping Street, and fried fishcake stuffed with natto (fermented soybeans) by Takata Osumi Tsudoi-no-oka Shopping Street. Three from Miaygi were: octopus fritter curry from Minami Sanriku Sansan Shopping Street, Ogatsu bowl by Ogatsu Tanakoya Shopping Street, and candied pacific saury tortilla wrap by the host, Kesennuma Fukko Shopping Street.

Each dish was priced at 300 yen (about 3.50 USD) and served in a small tasting portion. Three hundred servings were nearly sold out and the visitors voted with their chopsticks-literally dropping them into the ballot boxes set up at the information desk.

The top prize went to candied pacific saury tortilla wrap. Octopus fritter curry took the second place, followed by pacific saury dumpling soup in the third place.

Collaboration along coastal areas realized by a Not for Profit Organization from Okayama Prefecture which co-produced the event

The competition was co-produced by Kesennuma’s shopping street and a not for profit international medical organization called AMDA (The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia), headquartered in Okayama. AMDA has been active in the post-quake recovery effort in the region, providing medical services and delivering supplies to the impacted areas. They’ve also set up clinics and offered free medical visits. In addition to medical services, the organization expanded their scope in the past year to connect the communities along the Sanriku coastal areas and encourage regional co-operation, so that the communities themselves take charge and start promoting their uniqueness and strength to the outside world.

Tomoko Omasa,the AMDA project officer who organized the competition, emphasized the importance of each shopping street taking ownership in the process. She visited participating shopping streets frequently, sharing information on how the others are preparing for the competition and encouraging each to go for the gold.

Onto the next competition-who will be the host?

The first competition, with a large number of visitors, was clearly a success. After the award ceremony, the deputy manager from the host shopping street asked if there were any volunteers to host the next round-and eager hands shot up in the air. More than half of the participating shopping streets were willing to be the next host. It was an emotional moment. After the competition, Omasa received several calls from the participants with suggestions for improvements, as if they were ready to organize and host the event themselves.

Quake victims rarely have an opportunity to visit the impacted areas outside of their immediate surroundings. According to Omasa, “Visiting each other gives valuable insights to the victims, to see how they are not the only one struggling to rebuild. It changes their perspectives and they begin to help each other, instead of just being the recipient of [outside] help.” Rebuilding efforts so far has been managed at the local municipality level, but the next step should involve more regional coordination encompassing all the impacted areas across municipal and prefectural boundaries. More ideas are needed to bring tourism to the region, grow regional business for Sanriku and energize the people of Tohoku- such as commercial fishing competition, new product development competition featuring local catch or produce, or an event featuring fishing boats from all three prefectures with their flags.

(translation by Fumio Ichikawa)


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