Expect long lines and the smoky aroma of grilled fish to fill Tokyo’s Meguro district as the Meguro Sanma (Pacific saury) Festival comes back to the streets on Sept. 4.

The annual festival will carry special meaning this year as up to 6,000 sanma will be delivered fresh from the city of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas heavily affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11.

With the toppings of sudachi lemon and grated daikon (radish), also donated by cities in Tokushima and Tochigi prefectures, the fish will be offered free to visitors.

The festival, which is organized by the local merchants’ association, took its cue from a famous rakugo (comic story) piece titled “Meguro no Sanma” (“Sanma in Meguro”). It’s based on an Edo Period tale featuring a daimyo (feudal lord) who likes the grilled sanma offered to him by a farmer so much that he has his servants look for and cook the fish for him, but it never tastes as fatty as he would like. This results in his famous punch line: “Sanma wa Meguro ni kagiru!” (“There is nothing better than Sanma in Meguro!”)

On Sept. 18, another free tasting of sanma will be held by a different group, as part of the Meguro Kumin Matsuri festival.

The Meguro Sanma Festival will take place outside the east exit of Tokyo’s JR Meguro Station on Sept. 4 (10 a.m. till 2 p.m.). For more information, visit www.asahi-net.or.jp/xq7k-fsm/sanma.htm) The Meguro Kumin Matsuri will be held in three locations in Meguro Ward, but sanma tasting will take place at Dendo Hiroba Park, about a 10-minute walk from Meguro Station. For more information, visit www.sunma.emeguro.com.

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