After a robust discussion with the Date City Mayor and his leadership team, we celebrated together over dinner and sake in an historic structure owned by the city. A half of dozen older woman made foods from local ingredients, including special flowers and baby leaves. Large squares of tofu where brushed with miso sauce and roasted on sticks in front of a fire that sat in the middle of the room. The fire pit was originally used as a source of heat for both warmth and food preparation. Sticky rice was made by beating the rice dough with a mallet that was larger than a fireman’s axe. Several of the men took turns swinging the large mallet, with the rest of us cheering them on.
Similar to the first time we broke bread with the Date City officials, the night was filled with constant conversation, a great deal of laughter and the sharing of sake. Only this time, we felt like we already knew each other so the connection was immediate and sincere.
As we go about our project of helping Date City brand itself and its premium fruits and vegetables, I can’t help thinking that the city’s best asset are the people themselves. Everyone is so warm and welcoming. We are treated like kings and queens. And despite the difference in language, we all seem to understand each other.
The mayor and his staff have made this a very unique experience for us, one we would never have as tourists. We are living life with them, immersing ourselves in their culture and getting exposure to a remarkable group of people.
The dinner also gave us a chance to talk a bit more informally about our ideas around recommendations for the city. Our team feels ready to take the next step and lay out much more detailed actions during our last week on the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge.