(Alt Caption: Japanese and Wegman sushi chefs portion out tuna to sell to customers at the Japanese Seafood and Sushi Festival. Source: Juan San Nicolas, EWC Young Professional)

From Sushi to Sake: Japan's Culinary Diplomacy Flourishes in DC

Asia Japan

"The United States dove into a culinary adventure as Japan’s premiere seafood company partnered with Wegmans to host the Japanese Seafood and Sushi Festival, promising a delectable fusion of flavors and a feast for the senses!"

The United States embarked on a culinary voyage when the Japanese Seafood and Sushi Festival arrived, transforming Wegmans on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, DC into a culinary paradise. A mix of exquisite Japanese flavors, highlighting the craftsmanship of sushi and the richness of fine seafood, was promised at this thrilling event that took place on the 15th and 16th of September, 2023.

The festival celebrated culinary prowess, with expertly made sushi rolls and a variety of enticing seafood dishes. Attendees, which included members of the Japanese Embassy, were encouraged to sample the finest Japanese cuisine by Wegmans in partnership with Uoriki, a company known for its dedication to quality and selection of seafood in Japan. Participants were treated to a unique fusion of flavors, freshness, and the spirit of culinary creativity.

Exploring the Interesting Past of a Delicious Partnership:

Wegmans and Uoriki have a longstanding relationship, which began over 15 years ago when Uoriki acquired MC Fresh – a wholesale seafood company. The acquisition allowed Wegmans to establish a more direct source of seafood for their sushi and gain a better understanding of Uoriki’s relationship with the Tsukiji Market – now the Toyosu Market. During this partnership, Wegmans and Uoriki have co-hosted more than 20 festivals, bringing together expert Uoriki fishmongers, Toyosu’s quality ingredients, and American shoppers. The first event was held in 2009 at Wegman’s flagship store in Pittsford, New York.

The most recent event at the Wegmans on Wisconsin Avenue was the first Sushi Festival since 2019. The festival featured fresh seafood from the Toyosu Market, including varieties of fish that rarely leave Japan – Kinmedai, Maaji, Sanma, Madai, Ayu, Shimaaji, Kinki, and Akamutsu. Shoppers had access to limited-time sushi and sashimi offerings made with Toyosu Market fish and could also sample Japanese whisky and sake, A5 wagyu beef, Japanese fruits and vegetables, and fresh orchids. However, the real star of the festivities was the interactive tuna-cutting ceremonies – two each day – where fishmongers cut large tunas with traditional knives while discussing the fish and cutting techniques. Customers even had the opportunity to win cuts of fresh tuna through a classic game of rock-paper-scissors.

Taking Grocery Store Sushi to the Next Level:

Following Wegmans’s successful Seafood and Sushi Festival in Washington, DC, the sushi chefs and representatives from the Toyosu Market traveled to Manhattan, New York City, the future site of Wegmans’s newest grocery store. Located in Astor Place, the new facility will feature a 94-seat seafood restaurant and a 10-seat Omikase bar, with offerings rarely found in the continental US, let alone at your neighborhood grocery store. Speaking in excitement, store manager, Matt Dailor, said “Wegmans is a celebration of food and people, and we can’t wait to open the doors on October 18 to our community here in the East Village.”

Wegmans began as a vegetable and fruit pushcart in 1916. Now, the company has become one of the largest grocery chains in the United States with international partnerships that bring the world to local neighborhoods. Next up on this grocery chain’s list: sushi.

Shubhankar Agarwal is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. He is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service, where he is focusing on global governance, economic, and gender issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

Bettyjane Hoover is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a graduate student at American University’s School of International Service, studying International Affairs with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

Juan San Nicolas is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Wahington, D.C. He is a current graduate student at Georgetown University, concentrating in Science, Technology, and International Affairs.