Eat, drink, help Japan

There’s nothing better than spending money on both good food and a good cause.

That’s what the annual Taste of Marukai is all about.

The event, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Marukai Wholesale Mart, will collect donations for the Aloha For Japan campaign to help victims of tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

But more than that, the event, in its sixth year, has donated more than $135,000 to support local community groups that perpetuate the Japanese heritage in the Islands, including the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.

Not to mention the food and sake.

Highlights this year include innovative dishes prepared on-site by Nobu Waikīkī’s chef Robin Lee, more than 50 sakes to sample — including a brew from the 340-year-old Otokoyama Brewery in Asahikawa, Hokkaido — and the ever-popular traditional sake barrel-breaking (called kagami biraki) ceremony.

Marukai chefs will also be preparing Japanese and Okinawan dishes that include Alaskan king crab legs, Kona abalone and fresh-cut sashimi.

And, if this is any incentive, the newly crowned 59th Cherry Blossom Festival court will be there, too.

Cost is $95. For more information, visit