- - - - - WASHOKU - UNESCO nomination

Cuisine targeted for UNESCO list

An ad hoc committee set up by the Cultural Affairs Council endorsed a plan Monday to get Japanese food culture listed on UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list.

The government will present its formal nomination to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization by the end of March so a decision on the listing can be made as early as autumn 2013.

UNESCO has put 20 Japanese cultural traditions ranging from the performing arts of kabuki and noh to festivals and traditional crafts on the list so far.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, which is backing the nomination, said the traditional Japanese meal is a customary social practice expressing respect for nature and serves to strengthen the bonds between family members and the community.
source : Japan Times, February 2012

Panel pushes for UNESCO recognition of Japanese food

Panel screens plan to seek UNESCO recognition for Japanese food

Japanese food deserves UNESCO cultural heritage recognition

Japanese cuisine should be registered as the intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Friday, February 17, 2012
Japan to propose food as UNESCO heritage
Japan's cultural affairs agency plans to propose adding its traditional cuisine and food culture to the UNESCO-designated intangible cultural heritage list next month.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs says Japanese cuisine expresses the respect of the country's people for nature and its close relationship with New Year's festivities, rice transplanting and other traditional annual events.
The agency also says Japanese food is closely linked to traditional crafts such as dishware.
Japan's proposal is expected to be examined by a UNESCO committee in November.
UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage system was set up 9 years ago to protect traditional performing arts, craftsmanship, festivals and others.

The UN cultural body's list of such heritages includes 20 Japanese events and performing arts including Noh, Kabuki and the Gion Festival in Kyoto.
French, Italian and two other culinary cultures are also on the list.
source : www3.nhk.or.jp/daily


Thursday, March 22, 2012

'Washoku' served up as heritage

As the world acquires a taste for sushi and other Japanese treats, the government is hoping that its application to have "washoku" placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list will prove irresistible.

Japanese cuisine, or washoku — characterized by its use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and attractive presentation — is gaining adherents across the globe who are drawn to its taste, appearance and healthy qualities.

The government is now aiming to get "Washoku: Traditional Dietary Cultures of the Japanese" put on the list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage assets.

It will file a formal nomination with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization by the end of March but will have to wait until November 2013 at the earliest before UNESCO issues its judgement.

In the government's definition, washoku is a customary social practice expressing "respect for nature" and serving to strengthen the bonds of family and community. The nomination will highlight three features of washoku — various fresh ingredients, balanced nutrition and seasonal aesthetic presentation.

"Japanese cuisine is becoming global food," said star chef Yoshihiro Murata, one of the first people to call on the public sector to help get washoku status as an intangible cultural heritage.

"Chefs from high-ranked restaurants across the world are enthusiastic about learning how to cook Japanese food and also learning about the tableware and culture," Murata said.

The 60-year-old president of Kikunoi, whose flagship restaurant in Kyoto was awarded three stars in the 2012 Michelin Guide, said UNESCO recognition of Japanese food would help Japanese people recognize the splendor of their culture as a whole and encourage more people to work in the traditional food industry.

"Sometimes culture blends in so naturally with our lives that we don't appreciate its value," he said. "As a chef, I started out with Japanese food. If washoku gets UNESCO heritage status, it will motivate Japanese chefs across the globe — and also enhance the quality of chefs in this country."

The Japanese Culinary Academy, of which Murata is chairman, initially proposed nominating washoku to the Kyoto Prefectural Government last summer. It soon became a national project led by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

In the initiative, the ministry is stressing washoku as a factor behind the nation's low obesity rate and longevity. Japan's obesity rate stands at 3.9 percent, which compares favorably with rates of more than 20 percent for the United States and other Western countries, while the average life expectancy for Japanese men and women comes to 83, the highest in the world, according to data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The ministry attributes the healthfulness of Japanese cuisine to minimal use of animal oil and fat as well as the nutritional balance provided by rice in combination with different fermented foods, such as miso and soy sauce.

"All cuisines, except for Japanese food, are based on oils and fats. Japanese cuisine is built on 'umami,' " said Murata, referring to the savory fifth basic taste along with bitter, salty, sweet and sour.

He said basic Japanese stock, called "dashi," which brings out umami flavor, contains zero calories. This makes it possible to serve a course of dishes with 65 food items totaling 1,000 kilocalories. By contrast, one plate of spaghetti carbonara packs 1,200 kilocalories.

Promoting the culture of Japanese food via UNESCO will help "contribute to worldwide health," Murata said.

UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003 to safeguard and raise awareness of culture at local and international levels.

The number of Japanese cultural traditions on the UNESCO heritage list totals 20, including kabuki and noh. So far, only four types of food culture — French, Mexican, Mediterranean and Turkish — have been registered on the UNESCO list.

Makoto Osawa, director of policy planning of the agriculture ministry, said, "Japan, thanks to its shifting seasons, has a rich variety of food ingredients, while cooking methods vary depending on local conditions."

As an example of the diversity found in Japanese cuisine, the ministry cites "nabe" pot cooking from the Tohoku region, which developed out of the cold winters and active fishery industry.

"Japan has been concerned to raise awareness of protecting food culture," Osawa said. "This can be seen in the establishment in 2005 of the Basic Law on Shokuiku (Food and Nutrition Education)." The law encourages people to learn more about food and make proper food choices, and Osawa says few countries have legislation that promote public health in this way.

"The Westernization of food in Japan is not necessarily a bad thing, but the move (toward an UNESCO listing) will be an opportunity to urge Japanese not to let their food culture fade,"
he said.

It may not be easy for washoku to be registered as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, however.

South Korea is seeking to have its traditional royal court cuisine registered but missed out in last year's screening, with the body seeking more information on its connection with current society.

Japan is expected to underscore the cultural uniqueness of washoku and efforts to maintain the nation's culinary traditions to clear the hurdles in UNESCO's registration regimen.

A government online survey shows strong public support for registration, with 92 percent of the respondents in favor, while nearly 100 percent said they want to see the washoku tradition passed down to succeeding generations.

Also behind the government's efforts to win over UNESCO is its hope to regain global trust in the country's farm and marine products after the damage inflicted on their reputation by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Exports of Japanese agricultural and marine products were hit hard by radiation concerns, so international endorsement of washoku would be seen as a big plus.

"We are hoping that recognition of Japanese food by UNESCO will spur recovery from the disaster," Osawa said.

source : Japan Times


Washoku on World Heritage menu?

Let's talk about food cultures of the world. And I don't mean yogurt.

Japan, home to 16 World Heritage sites, is now hoping to add another World Heritage accolade with washoku (Japanese food). The only other cuisines deemed worthy of the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage assets are French, Mexican, Turkish, Mediterranean and most recently, Korean imperial food. And you know, if Korea is on the list, then Japan sure as heck better be. And there is no doubt that Japanese cuisine deserves to be on the list.

In fact, Japanese cuisine is said to include 1,500 different items. Hmm, let's count: Rice, sushi, sashimi; nabe, okonomiyaki, udon; sea anemone, chicken cartilage, fish sperm . . . I could probably come up with 100 more, but another 1,491? Maybe that's why the classification reads "intangible cultural heritage" — it can be left to the imagination.

From a local Kyoto movement, the push for UNESCO status went on to become a national project led by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry. I don't know about you, but I just can't see the fish going for this one.

I'm not sure what it takes to get washoku placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list, but to get Mount Fuji considered as a World Heritage site took an application fee of ¥10 million and a 300-page document including drawings, figures and specific reasons why the sacred mountain is worthy of the listing under cultural heritage sites.

So I can only suspect that Japanese food will be put through the same rigorous application process. In addition to drawings, color charts, prescribed knife cutting angles and regulations on noodle lengths, the food items will also have to prove culturally important to the Japanese people. Noodles will have to show they are so popular they have spawned noodle-eating contests nationwide, octopus will have to prove they are hailed as the one food where absolutely all parts of it are used (including the head and all eight armpits), and natto (fermented beans) will have to show evidence it can be inhaled at a rate of 530 grams per 27.7 seconds (with a footnote congratulating the recent feat accomplished by Yasuharu Kimori at the 2012 natto speed-eating competition).

Furthermore, chefs will have to demonstrate that studies show that eating sazae (turban shells) does not induce nightmares of giant snails taking over the world, that sea urchin will not be thrown as ninja stars. Lastly, they will have to promise that mochi will not be given to the elderly.

Some foods thought to be uniquely Japanese are, in fact, shared by other Asian cultures. Miso, soy and even natto is eaten in other parts of Asia. However, umami, the mysterious fifth flavor, (after bitter, salty, sweet and sour) is uniquely Japanese, so we could include dashi in washoku. And probably okayu and green tea.

Okay, only 1,482 to go.

There is also shokuyo no hana (edible flowers) and leaves. I'm not just talking about your daily intake of digestible pollen, nor the opportunity to get buzzed and pollinated by bees (Hey, I'm here, pollinate me!). This is Japanese cuisine that includes carnations, cosmos, pansies, roses, and even cherry blossoms. I don't think it includes cherry blossom-flavored beer, however. Leave it to the Japanese, who also eat mitsuba and shiso, some of the tastiest greens around. I grow my own shiso and often see caterpillar shiso addicts, hanging out in hammocks at the bottom of my plants, drugged by the fragrance and heavenly taste. I even sometimes see other bugs shooting up the stems. 1,475.

As it turns out, however, the number of Japanese food items is only one small part of getting the cuisine recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage. Other factors include: visual presentation, fresh and seasonable ingredients, eating rituals, tableware and utensils, and the overall healthiness of the food that adds to longevity and quality of life.

Japanese food is certainly beautifully presented. Dandelions, autumn-colored maple leaves and bento grass, all inedible, are common decorations for food. And Japanese people do amazing things with food other than ingesting it, such as pounding it (mochi), throwing it (Shinto ceremonies) and offering it to the gods (Shinto and Buddhist ceremonies).

Eating utensils, in addition to chopsticks, would have to include the hari needles used to pierce and extract the corpses of sazae.

Although Japanese food is generally very healthy, I cannot agree with the claim that the cuisine has successfully resisted junk food. Personally, I consider cherry blossom-flavored potato chips and green-tea flavored Kit-Kats more on the junk side than the food side. I'm not letting my caterpillars get close to that stuff.

All in all, however, I think Japanese food will have no trouble making it onto the World Heritage list. And with help of Wasao, the dog appointed by the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan as a special ambassador for World Heritage-related activities, washoku should attain this status even faster. This diplomat dog is said to "promote the connection between people and nature, as well as the importance of life."

With Wasao barking for us, maybe even Japanese dog food has a chance to be included. Japan is a country where discerning canines can get miso soup, freeze-dried natto, and even okara (from tofu) doggie treats from gourmet dog food companies. 1,472.

We'll find out in November 2013, when UNESCO issues its final judgment. Woof-woof!


- Reference -


October 23, 2013

- quote
UNESCO to recognize Japanese food culture
“Washoku” — traditional Japanese cuisine — is now likely to be designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A UNESCO body that screens cultural asset candidates has recommended that “washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese,” gain the status, the Cultural Affairs Agency said Tuesday.

An intergovernmental panel is expected to make a final decision on listing the Japanese food culture at a meeting in Azerbaijan in early December.
- source : japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/23

Japan hopes culinary honor helps Fukushima - NHK news
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says he hopes UNESCO endorsement of the heritage value of Japan's traditional cuisine helps counter rumors about the safety of food from Fukushima.
Suga told reporters on Wednesday that traditional Japanese food culture is grounded in a spiritual respect for nature. He said those values are sure to be passed on to future generations if they are formally recognized by the UN body in December as an intangible cultural asset.

. Fukushima - Problems in October 2013 .


November 06, 2013

Chefs from Japan, France advertise Japanese food
Chefs from Japan and France have displayed their culinary skills in an event in Paris meant to get more people to try Japanese food.
Renowned French chef Alain Ducasse, who uses Japanese ingredients in his restaurants, organized the event on Wednesday.
Nine chefs made dishes for reporters and people in the local food industry. They used around 50 ingredients, such as "wagyu" beef and Japanese horseradish.
Their original recipes included an appetizer made with whipped lettuce and herring roe, as well as a dessert of mixed Japanese horseradish and dairy cream.
People who tasted the dishes marveled at the exquisite combination of the French and Japanese elements.
In France, Japanese food is growing in popularity with many French chefs preferring to use "dashi" soup stock.
Ducasse said French chefs can learn many things from Japanese cuisine, which is known for its meticulous attention to fine detail.
Next month, UNESCO is expected to designate Japanese traditional cuisine and food culture as intangible cultural heritage.


November 09, 2013

Japanese cuisine restaurants to train foreigners - NHK
The Japanese government is considering a relaxation of immigration rules so that foreigners who studied the Japanese traditional cuisine "washoku" can extend their period of stay to work as trainees in Japan.
Government officials are discussing an around 2-year extension of residential status for foreigners who finished a professional cookery course for traditional Japanese cuisine.
Foreign cooks are required to have at least 10 years of work experience to obtain a residential visa from Japan.
They are not allowed to work at traditional Japanese restaurants.
An organization of professional cooking schools in Japan has appealed to the government panel discussing deregulation to grant residential status to foreigners who graduated their "washoku" courses.
The government is trying to spread Japanese culture to the world.
Next month, UNESCO is expected to recognize Japanese traditional cuisine and food culture as an intangible cultural heritage.


December 04, 2013

UNESCO picks Japanese cuisine as cultural heritage - NHK news

UNESCO has added Japanese cuisine and food culture to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The world body's intergovernmental committee made the decision at a meeting in Azerbaijan on Wednesday.
Japan filed an application with UNESCO in March last year, following a request by a Japanese civic group.
The group has been campaigning to fight rumors about Japanese food since the Fukushima accident.

Many in Japan hope the recognition will boost exports and help make Japanese food, or washoku, more popular around the world.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the listing. He said Japan's food culture has been nurtured for generations and he wants to help preserve it.
Agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he wants to sustain interest in Japanese food culture so it will be passed on to future generations.
The UNESCO listing is aimed at protecting traditional cultures, festivals, local arts and crafts around the world.
Japanese cuisine is the 22nd item from the nation to go onto the list, following Noh and Kabuki plays, and the float parade in Kyoto's Gion festival.


無形文化遺産へ “和食”の魅力とは… 「いただきます。」
岩村暢子室長 / 村田吉弘さん / 佐藤紀代子さん / 熊倉功夫さん
- source : www.nhk.or.jp/gendai

「WASHOKU - Try Japan's Good Food事業」- from Hokkaido to Okinawa
food served at the ambassies of Tokyo
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- source : www.mofa.go.jp


- source : NHK World - Japan

My Diary

. Japan after the BIG earthquake March 11, 2011 .

Related words

***** WASHOKU : General Information


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