Offering the traditional Japanese toast of Kampai at a "Pride of Kumamoto" party was the Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture himself, Ikuo Kabashima.
It was a reception at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan to showcase the seafood and shochu (distilled spirits) of Kumamoto, a verdant region on Kyushu Island in southwestern Japan, 600 miles from Tokyo. The guests were mostly Japanese executives of companies doing business with Kumamoto Prefecture, also mostly Japanese.
In Seattle, the name Kumamoto name is virtually synonymous with a particularly succulent variety of oysters. And those oysters, on display at the event, are grown in Washington waters by Taylor Shellfish Farms, whose representatives were also on hand to describe their work with seafood companies in Japan to obtain the starter seed for Kumamotos to replenish their stock. The project has gone exceptionally well; Taylor even sells seed to folks with waterfront property who want to grow their own oysters. Everybody wins: oysters are terrific little water filtering machines in waters all over the world.
Shochu is a spirit that originated in Kyushu 500 years ago that can be distilled from rice, barley or even sweet potatoes. (It has nothing to do with sake, which is a brewed rice wine.) Kyushu today has over over two dozen producers of shochu who use single-pass pot stills to distill a mash of locally grown rice. The name of the area of production, the Kuma Valley, is protected, like Cognac or Champagne. there's even a designated Kuma Shochu Day: November 1st.
Governor Kabashima, it should be noted, first visited the USA as an agricultural trainee at the University of Nebraska, where he was assigned to work with boar semen. Undiscouraged, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in international relations from Harvard. We'll drink to that!