August 28, 2011

Made in Japan: On-Line Auction for A Fund for Jennie

On March 11, we all watched with horror as Japan experienced first a devastating earthquake and then an even more destructive tsunami. Amidst the tragedy and uncertainty, what happened next was truly inspiring, as the world gathered to take the Japanese people in its arms and give them comfort, in whatever way it could.

The tsunami was on my mind this week while I was in Tokyo on business. On the surface, Tokyo is the same as ever – an exciting, eclectic city, filled with wonderful people and the weird and wacky things that make Japan so unique. Taxi drivers with their white gloves and immaculate crocheted covered seats. Shops dedicated to making and selling just one thing: crackers, say, or egg omelettes. The tiny restaurants and cafes that serve completely fresh and seasonal food as a matter of course, their popularity measured by the long and patient lines of patrons waiting to be seated.

Sakura (cherry flavoured) tempura-style bun from Agemaju Asakusa Kokonoe, a little stall that sells nothing but five flavours of tempura-style buns

But deeply, fundamentally, something has changed in Japan. As one person described it to me, “Meaningful experiences matter more than ever, especially with our families. And making a difference for others has never been so important.”

Making a difference was on my mind this week, too. The Twittersphere was full of a call to action; a communal gathering to comfort, to offer succour, to try and assuage another deep and fundamental wound. When Jennifer Perillo lost her husband suddenly and cruelly a few weeks ago, friends and strangers alike responded with the deep need to help make a devastating blow bearable in whatever way they could. From making peanut butter pies to launching a donation fund, to creating the most amazing online auctions, we’ve tried to gather Jennie in our arms. I’m sure you’ve read about this and, like me, have marvelled at the generosity of people.

I wanted to do my part to help, and with the perfect opportunity to pick up some wonderful Japanese products, I’m launching my own online auction for Jennie. Made in Japan features items you’ll be able to bid on that have come with me direct from Tokyo this week, and represent a wide variety of Japanese goods to surprise, delight and enjoy.

Included in the Made in Japan auction:

Two knives from Sugimoto, a company that has been making knives since the 1830s. The tiny shop at Tsukji Market is worth seeking out. I bought two knives from Sugimoto last year and am a big fan. The auction features a stainless steel Western style 6” general purpose knife and a 4” single edge honed traditional Japanese carbon blade, wood handled vegetable knife (for right handed cooks). Also from Sugimoto – a pair of fish tweezers for picking out the fine bones from your next salmon fillet.

A set of two beautiful lacquer ware cups from Urusi. The finish is satiny smooth and cups can be used for either hot or cold beverages

Two sizes of suribachi with a surikogi. The suribachi is a Japanese mortar used with a pestle (the surikogi). In Japanese cooking the suribachi is used to crush sesame seed. Smaller versions can be used to grate fresh wasabi or ginger.

Set of eight small appetizer dishes; two shapes, each with four different patterns

Delightful baking supplies.  Two packs (100 each) of whimsical cupcake holders and a stencil for making special personalised cookies

A shichimi togarashi set (pictured right) from Yagenbori, a company that has been in business since 1625. They make the delicious seven spice blend known as shichimi togarashi, which is blended to order with every purchase. This blend is the “medium” version; my favourite way to use it is in sautĂ©ed kale, and the set includes a wooden holder for the spice

Yuzu Sencha tea with Matcha from Jugetsudo.  This tea is delicious hot or cold and makes a particularly refreshing drink with its unique yuzu flavour. Plus matcha powder, with recipes

Sweet treats, including sugar coated soy beans and pretty sugar candies

And my favourite item: coasters in three colours with the following message: Welcome.  Please relax slowly while drinking the drink. Sage advice indeed.
The value of the auction items is $450.  Bidding starts at $100. To bid,
leave a comment below with your bid amount.  Bidding will end on Friday, September 2 at 11:59 pm Eastern time – just before the stroke of midnight. NEW: I will include shipping for anywhere in continental North America.

As the Japanese say, hito wa itawari atte ikite ikanakereba narimasen: people have to live by caring for each other. Bloggers Without Borders is still accepting donations to A Fund For Jennie, with the proceeds going directly to Jennie and her two girls. Click here to give whatever you can; every dollar counts and helps.

Arigatou gozaimasu – thank you very much, and good luck!


  1. I'll bid $100 to get things started.

  2. Holy cow, $250

    -- justcooknyc

  3. Those cups look familiar... It was nice seeing you as always!

  4. Oops, for Cheryl S - my email is:


  5. Well my last post got lost. I'm taking it up to $300.

  6. Congratulations to the last anonymous bidder! Send me an email at with your contact details and we can coordinate shipping etc. Thank you to all who bid.