Sunday night I attended the Tonton Matsuri, a special event held at Hakata Tonton, a popular Japanese restaurant in the West Village. Known primarily for its Kyushu soul food, pork dishes that are a staple in the cuisine of Southern Japan, Hakata Tonton instead served up the specialties of an area far to the northeast, the town of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
The Tonton Matsuri was a special fundraiser to help the struggling town in its recovery efforts. During a Skype conversation with Rikuzentakata’s mayor, Futoshi Toba, we showed our support by enjoying his local senbei (Japanese rice cracker) and Muscat cider soda. As a result of the disaster of 3/11, Rikuzentakata lost two thousand residents, including Mayor Toba’s wife.
We feasted on several dishes of Iwate’s local cuisine, including fantastically fresh sushi, noodles topped with natto (which I actually ate and enjoyed), and a few other dishes whose names escape me because I was too busy eating and drinking to take notes. Suffice it to say that everything was delicious.
Hakata Tonton manager and chef Koji Hagihara also treated us to a giant bowl of stew containing fish, pork, tofu, cabbage, and all kinds of other goodies.
Cellist Leo Soeda played three thoughtful songs evoking the disaster and looking toward recovery.
My friend Kiyoe and I won six-packs of the Muscat cider soda in a contest.
Tonton Matsuri was an evening of great food and drink, conversation and camaraderie for an important cause.