Gelato from quake-hit city chosen for Biden

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Three kinds of gelato served at a dinner party for U.S. President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan in May

NATORI, Miyagi — Gelato from a popular gelateria in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, was served at a dinner party hosted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for U.S. President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan in late May.

“I’m proud that he tasted it,” said the head of gelateria Natu-Lino’s operating company. “I hope we were able to show our appreciation of his presence during the restoration [after the 2011 earthquake], if only in a small way.”

The store’s richly-flavored gelato is made from raw milk purchased in the morning from farms in the town of Shikama in the prefecture and other locally produced ingredients. For the dinner party at Happo-en garden in Minato Ward, Tokyo, three kinds of gelato — milk, double chocolate and matcha — were served.

Biden is known for his love of ice cream.

In August 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, Biden — then vice president — visited Sendai Airport, where Operation Tomodachi was taking place, and a temporary housing complex in Natori, where he met with disaster victims. For Biden’s first visit to Japan since his inauguration as president, gelato from the city was chosen as a dessert menu item for the dinner party in connection with his visit in the past.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden holds a child during a visit to a temporary housing complex in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, in August 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tomohiro Suzuki, president of Natu-Lino’s operator Tonan Shoji, said he received a phone call on May 13 from a Foreign Ministry official who told him, “We’ll have a guest from overseas and we’d like to serve your gelato at a party.”

After several phone call exchanges, Natu-Lino sent three flavors of gelato for 40 guests.

“I didn’t know until I was watching the news that the guest was the [U.S.] president,” Suzuki said.

Tonan Shoji lost its company building in the 2011 tsunami, which killed four of its employees. The company made a fresh start at its present location in 2015.

The day after the dinner party, a local resident who saw the news told him, “I’m happy as a Natori resident.”

“[The event] has shown many people that even after the earthquake disaster we are capable of producing something like this,” Suzuki said. “I want to keep doing my best to help revitalize Natori and Miyagi Prefecture.”