This past Sunday, I checked out the Tokyo Food Festival which was held a short walk away from Tokyo Station, in the Maranouchi district. The festival was hosted by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries to “proclaim the merits of Japanese food,” according to the official English language literature. And what better way to proclaim the glory of your national cuisine than a multi-block street fair with various booths showcasing food products from across Japan, a national contest of local dishes, and sake tasting.
There were also a number of food trucks serving up a diverse array of dishes. Soba noodles made from lotus root. Ice cream made from dried persimmons immersed in rum. Gourmet pancakes. Venison sausages. Dandan noodles.
Unfortunately, I was unable to try everything, but I loved what I did eat. For example, there was the ishikari nabe (石狩鍋), a Hokkaido-style seafood stew cooked with butter, miso, salmon, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and ikura (salmon roe). My wife and I couldn’t stop talking about how delicious it was! The taste of the Hokkaido butter combined with the miso and hot seafood stock was simply sublime, especially on a cool autumn day. The ikura was also surprisingly firm in the hot soup, more so than when they are served in sushi.
There was also tonjiro — pork and miso stew — served by an organization called Miso Girl. It was chocked full of good stuff — carrots, potatoes, sizable pieces of burdock root, and (of course) pork. Very tasty!
And since this is Japan, there have to be mascots. Just about every company or organization seems to have one. There were two Miso Girls, dressed in modern, mini-skirt interpretation of kimonos with miso soup bowls on their heads. And there was Tofu Man, who really needs no description.
As if the food festival wasn’t enough, there was a traditional dance contest/festival in a plaza in front of Tokyo station. Basically, several large teams of dancers do a choreographed group performance in quasi-traditional dress, with some holding clappers that are somewhat like Japanese castanets, and others waving huge flags. It looked like a mini version of the Fukuro Festival in Ikebukuro that I went to a while ago, which involved a larger number of folk dance teams.
Overall, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.