Not one specific dish comes to mind when one thinks of Japanese cuisine. From sushi and sashimi, to tempura, ramen, nabe, tsukemono, and okonomiyaki, the diverse range of foods, ingredients, methods of preparation and presentation all contribute to Japan’s unique diet. Following in the steps of Spain, Greece, France, Morocco, and Italy, who have each had their own cuisines recognized for this distinction, Japan has applied for the UNESCO-designated intangible cultural heritage award for their cuisine. Japan’s inclusion is not official until the UNESCO meeting in Azerbaijan in early December, though the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs points to the Japanese culinary culture, which places a strong emphasis on social customs and respect for nature as a representative of tradition and community, as reason for inclusion. Ceremonial aspects and seasonal traditions such as New Year’s celebrations and rice-planting/harvest festivals, all play important roles in strengthening relationships within family and local communities through food.
The campaign was started in 2011 by Yoshihiro Murata, chairman of The Japanese Culinary Academy, and received support from over 1,500 non-profit groups, corporations, municipalities and local communities across Japan. There is hope that earning this distinction will lead to an increase in Japanese agricultural and food exports, leading to the successful implementation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to double exports of agricultural products by 2020.