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Japanese cuisine submitted for UNESCO 'intangible cultural heritage' status

53 Comments

Japanese cuisine has been provisionally approved by a review panel for submission to the growing list of national cuisines being recognized by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an item of intangible cultural heritage.

The agriculture ministry in Tokyo has announced dishes such as sushi, tempura, okonomiyaki and yakitori, as well the utensils used in the preparation and consumption of Japanese food are to be submitted for inclusion on the list.

TBS quoted a ministry spokesman Wednesday as saying that "washoku" has been recommended by a UNESCO review panel. That recommendation will be approved or reversed by an intergovernmental panel, although Japanese officials told reporters that there have so far been no instances of recommendations being declined.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters he hopes inclusion in the list will provide new support for agricultural and fisheries sectors in Fukushima, which have not recovered since the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region in northeast Japan in March 2011.

Suga, who is hoping UNESCO recognition will restore trust in Japanese exports, said, "I would really welcome the inclusion of traditional Japanese cuisine. If it is included, the spirit of traditional Japanese cuisine, one that is based on respect for nature, will be preserved for future generations," TBS reported.

To date, French, Mexican and Mediterranean traditional cuisines have been recognized by UNESCO as cuisines of intangible cultural heritage, while it is expected that Korean imperial cuisine will be added to the list in November. An intergovernmental panel of representatives from 24 countries is scheduled to convene in Azerbaijan in December to review the panel's recommendation.

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53 Comments
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Mont Fuji i can understand but Japanese cuisine of intangible cultural heritage?

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

Japanese food is amazing. When you leave Japan it will become something you miss and can never really experience properly no matter how good the restaurant you visit elsewhere. It truly is one of the world's great cuisines. Not saying it is the best... but it is certainly up there. I am also not sure it will restore confidence in exports after a radiation link. That seems a separate issue t me than just how good the food is.

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

Great , I love Japanese food - but just how is the " spirit of washoku based on respect of nature "?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Does this include Ajinomoto?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

This will cause a washoku boom in Japan.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

sushi=raw fish+rice tempura=spain yakitori=everywhere The list should have some more unique japanese food besides okonomiyaki (and that is not that unique either). I've traveled the whole planet and none of the dishes being considered by UNESCO are unique from Japan. On the other hand the utensils deserve a huge round of applause.

-7 ( +3 / -9 )

UNESCO world heritage is just getting ridiculous. It was originally intended to save and preserve heritage that was in neglect or danger of destruction but it has now turned into an international quango with governments lobbying and no doubt paying money to boast about how special they are. Look at the list and anyone can see that richer countries are far over represented and poorer countries barely get a look in. It will just become a joke that no one pays attention to. Cuisine is highly subjective with most people having tastes towards what they are familiar, there will be a case for just about every culture in the world putting their cuisine on the list. Lobbying this hard to put Mt. Fuji and their food on the list shows that Japan has just about run out of cultural sites for inclusion and is getting desperate.

To date, French, Mexican and Mediterranean traditional cuisines

Very good but why not Indian, Lebanese and Thai. I am sure that people from those countries prefer their own cuisine.

but just how is the " spirit of washoku based on respect of nature "?

Because they said it is. I would have personally thought that eating fish to extinction was exactly the opposite but god forbid anyone in UNESCO would use any critical faculties while they are holding a big brown envelope stuffed with cash.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

I would think cajun cuisine would make the list before Japanese.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

What a great idea for counties to promote their food. Look out Michelen Gide. How about Australia the could do the meat pie an sauce.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@pochan

i totally agree. this idea that UNESCO needs to recognize cuisine or food is ridiculous. and if japanese officials think this will mean people will start buying food from fukushima, they are dreaming. they need to make a more concerted effort to limit the amount of radiation spilling into the ocean first.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

provide new support for agricultural and fisheries sectors in Fukushima

Swap untouchable status quo for 'intangible cultural status' ?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@pochan - totally agree. Esp about the fish most definitely tuna is being devoured into extinction. How unique is that?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters he hopes inclusion in the list will provide new support for agricultural and fisheries sectors in Fukushima"

Still trying to bilk Fukushima for sympathy, I see. This nation seems to want everything under the rising sun to be recognized as world heritage. Hope they don't try to include any local pizza blends covered with mayonnaise and corn. I can KIND OF understand giving the traditional tools to make such products (like Okonomiyaki) a thumbs up, but world heritage?

The sushi police who go abroad and proclaim other nation's foods are not sushi would have a whole lot more work to do.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Mexican, up there with French and soon Japanese cuisine, really ?!

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

this is not intangible. japanese food is the best in the world, very especially tangible in the best of all possible ways: it goes beyond taste, it gives the longest healthiest life, and makes you feel really good (back to an important intangible)

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

"I would think cajun cuisine would make the list before Japanese."

Yeah right and the Superdome in New Orleans should be considered to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage before the Golden Pavilion !!!

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Link to application document of Washoku submitted to UNESCO.

http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=00553#869

I do not know what to say but the application says that everyday food of Japanese should be nominated as intangible cultural heritage.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

this is not intangible. japanese food is the best in the world

Ia that a fact or opinion?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

totally agree. this idea that UNESCO needs to recognize cuisine or food is ridiculous.

Absolutely.What is the purpose of this? Is it some badge to generate tourism or perhaps to regulate how food is preserved.

This sounds like a job creation programme for UN staff.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This kind of award is on a par with Nobel Peace Prizes. A pity that an organization like UNESCO, a body which has many admirable qualities, sullies and degrades its image with this kind of pointlessness.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

the spirit of traditional Japanese cuisine, one that is based on respect for nature, will be preserved for future generations

You say what? Oh yes, the fishermen of Taiji show great respect for nature while herding and slaughtering thousands of dolphins with spears and swords and, the whalers in the southern ocean show great respect for nature when firing grenade harpoons into whales. And, should we mention the deserted north Japan sea that is just a waste land full of large jellyfish due to over fishing? And, the Japanese crane that has been brought back from the brink of extinction due to uncontrolled hunting. The saddest thing is, these wombats and the Japanese people actually believe this tripe! I'm sorry but, Japan has two very different faces when it comes to ecology.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I personally do not like the Japanese food, but I sincerely think it deserves the intangible cultural heritage status by UNESCO.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Suga, who is hoping UNESCO recognition will restore trust in Japanese exports,

Only if...an export certificate for each and every shipment is issued/endorsed by UNESCO (!)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Pochan: this has nothing to do with taste, but with culture. Where food has a very important cultural role, it makes full sense.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japanese food that people can afford is good, I would never say its superior to anything else I have eaten around the world. The selection of food you can buy in markets here is extremely limited. All the conbini have is processed crap and terrible bentos, as well as Jonathans, Saizeria, Royal Host etc. If you can afford the niche places, then I guess its the best but the portions are enough for a rabbit with prices nobody can afford. Some of the food in the inaka is great, and reasonable, but most people dont live there. If your talking about yakitori and sushi chains, been there ate it wasnt impressed. There is a shortage of vegetables in many areas also, I have seen obasans scrambling in the morning to get fresh cucumbers. Im sorry, just dont get how Japanese food is that great.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Pochan: this has nothing to do with taste, but with culture. Where food has a very important cultural role, it makes full sense.

What? Explain...is Japan's food culture superior to others?

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Best in Asia is Vietnam and Thai. Food is abundant and fresh. I can honestly say I have had better street vendor food in SE Asia than I have eaten in Japan. I cannot speak for Hokaido as I have never been there.

In the U.S., depends on where you live. Agreed, food mfg by US companies is boxed crap and dangerous for your health but the fresh grown food at farmers markets and the abundance and selection beats anything Japan has, hands down. There are speciality foods in Japan like Kobe beef and other delicacies, but who can afford/eat it everyday?

And, as everybody knows, European cakes and pastrys are the best.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Pochan: absolutely! Countries where you eat alone 9/10 meals junk food in front of the TV cannot claim any food culture heritage. Contrarily to where time is spent to prepare elaborated food and then spending convivial time around a table.

That's where the difference is.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

absolutely! Countries where you eat alone 9/10 meals junk food in front of the TV cannot claim any food culture heritage.

Is that ALL others? What is your experience of travel and world cuisines? How about India, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Italy Greece, Hungary, Lebanon, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Vietnam...do they all eat junk food 9/10 meals. Are you making a comparison with your own country and based on that jumping to the conclusion that Japanese food is the best in the world? How many countries have you lived in or spent enough time to make a judgement?

Please tell me why Japan a better cuisine than all others.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Pochan

you NAILED it at 04:28!

I love J-food, but this unesco idea is theatre of the absurd

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Pochan: I am not Japanese and I have lived between 2-4 years in 6 countries on 4 continents (BTW I have visited and enjoyed the food in all the countries you named except for Sri Lanka). Saying that, Japanese food deserving this status does not mean that Thai or Cajun or Mongolian or ... food does not deserve it. They just need to apply for it!

In a trend of junk fast food globalization I believe recognizing this heritage is as important as protecting a historical monument or town. This is just my opinion and I fully understand the logic behind the UNESCO.

And if you read my first comment, you will see that I personally do not like the Japanese food!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Thanks for your reply. I think the point is that countries shouldn't have to apply for UNESCO status but rather it should be given based on set of criteria to deserving places. With a system where countries apply it is unfairly weighted towards countries that have the power and resources to lobby the UN, whilst poorer countries get left in the cold. There has to be some sort of fair system, where cultural sites or things of cultural importance are judged equally. Giving it cuisines is just opening up a whole set of new rules and god knows how ridiculous it is going to get. Are we going to see the Kimono given international world heritage status because Japan is lobbying so hard for it. Where is this going to end?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Pochan: we are coming to a common platform: good.

I honestly think this food cultural heritage deserves at first the country of origin to support in maintaining it among its own population. As this thread illustrates it, everyone has its own food taste and meals habits and most of the visitors in a country with UNESCO food recognition - or any other actually - will not stay long or experience it enough to get the full essence of this cultural heritage.

But for the ones interested into it, of course the marketing aspect is not nil and will support the touristic development. But what is wrong to go to a country just to enjoy the food?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

All this talk about food is making me hungry!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

So basically unesco is heading down the same path as Michelin? It's sad really! These reference points should be a guide for us to consult. Unfortunately both have gone to the gutter!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Tonight I had a yaki soba sandwich!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I understand that tempura is a food that is loved in Japan. And when people of the world think of Japanese food, it's probably thought of right behind sushi & miso soup. But why is Japan claiming it? It was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. Portugal should be getting it listed before Japan.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Kiss1969: UNESCO has nothing to do with rating, like Michelin. Again, taste is not the criteria, but the cultural one is. No relation with cost, but the cultural relevance only. It seems it is something difficult to understand for people who care as much about food rituals as filling their car tank with gasoline.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Open Minded

I agree with you that food culture needs to be preserved and celebrated but I think this is not the right way to do it. UNESCO world heritage is better suited for listing placing of cultural, historic and natural interest that need to be protected. This going too far and is already demeaning the original idea. Where does it end- the works of Shakespeare, ancient Indian religious festivals, traditional costumes? If they are listing culture it will just become endless. Food is highly subjective and if they want to Japanese or French food on the list they will have to add a hundred others as well. Japan lobbying UNESCO to have everything Japanese listed as an unique world heritage status is absurd. There is too much culture in the world to designate it all as having a special status and putting national cuisines on the list demeans the places on the list. Also there are other bodies that are protecting international food culture so why does UNESCO need to get involved?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Pochan: UNESCO started to defends historical landmarks against speculators and local disinterest. Millennium of food culture is endangered by global junk food driven by massive marketing from agroindustrial firms originated in US an UK, but very strong in Asia too now. Thus raising the cultural diversity of food - including rituals - is a must for the Humanity. Much more important than just focusing on the "healthy" food (again a marketing gimmick). Healthy human conviviality is much healthy overall to my eyes!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I don't know that junk food from the USA is pushing out Japanese food, there are at least half a dozen Japanese restaurants in Rochester, two Korean ones that I know of, and English pub, authentic Chinese, Indian, Thai, Irish, Italian, .... I can even get good uni. The point is that Japanese food has gone international. You have to be dirt poor to not have access to it.

Which makes me wonder why UNESCO is wasting money on silly things like declaring heritage foods (yeah, NY has a state bug too, and the taxes to go with it) instead of feeding the hungry. Smells like natto to me.

And, actually, I have not found a restaurant in the US that serves natto. Does natto need preserving? :-)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What? No Takoyaki?

Hold up UNESCO, I need to enter my favorite Japanese "Drunk after 2am Food" to throw in the Hat!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I understand that tempura is a food that is loved in Japan. And when people of the world think of Japanese food, it's probably thought of right behind sushi & miso soup. But why is Japan claiming it? It was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. Portugal should be getting it listed before Japan.

Also, sashimi/sushi dishes didn't originate in Japan, either, but the locals sure like to take credit for it. :-P

And, actually, I have not found a restaurant in the US that serves natto. Does natto need preserving? :-)

Some restaurants around here, far from the coasts, actually serve it. There's no shortage of soybeans in the U.S., although, there may be a shortage of natto demand. I've never seen anyone, even Japanese folks, order it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Tempura - Portuguese roots ~ but, evolved into a distinct cuisine for 500 yrs. in Japan Sushi - not Japanese? Wow. Most everything in present civilization can be traced back to have foreign roots. Even though English is actually a Latin based language, I personally see no problem in giving the British credit for the language I speak. You would disagree, ExExpat?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Tempura was introduced to Japan by the Portugues as well as PAN, I think in Portugues it is called pao, meaning bread in English. But I have eaten quite a bit of Portuguese food but never seen tempura but do love it and do have to give the Japanese credit for making lovely, yummy food, even though sometimes I think it is a bit too expensive. As a Mexican, I do need my tacos and menudo, so at least UNESCO seems to be on the right track.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The more UNESCO gives awards and certifies things,, the less value those things have, Yakitori I love, but how can you say that is a special meal..what is next, Yoshinoya?? And the use of tuna should disqualify sushi. I could see in a few years when the tuna stock is next to nothing... Japanese fishing lobbyist saying we have to preserve sushi.. it is a protected UNESCO cuisine.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Note to Japan (&UNESCO) if a country's food is so special, it doesn't need recognition by world bodies.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

GMALOQ: Mexican, up there with French and soon Japanese cuisine, really ?! .....Yeah right and the Superdome in New Orleans should be considered to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage before the Golden Pavilion !!!

Wow! Too bad UNESCO isn't giving out a "Best Snobbist" award become I know who I'd nomiinate! Why wouldn't Mexican or Cajun food deserve UNESCO consideration? They're both unique to their areas, in so far as any food is unique, are important to their cultural heritage and are worth preserving. Taste, like beauty, is pretty subjective so naturally people will disagree about which one is better than the other. That's not really the point of the UNESCO award though.

Oh, and just for the record, Mexican cuisine was already designated with UNESCO Intangible Cultural status, back in 2010, the same time French cuisine was. Alors, qu'est-ce que tu dis de ça?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

tremendous amount of small-minded jealousy in these posts.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I just don't understand this constant need to be viewed as unique by Japan. Every country is unique, and people eat food all over the world. Why do you need a little badge to make you feel good about yourselves? It all seems a bit insecure to me.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Blah, blah, blah. Is this supposed to make everyone rush out and buy sushi? I personally love the food of my country, Britain. Whilst being scoffed at by most people, I couldn't give a monkeys as I know when cooked well it beats most other countries hands down. Don't need my government to lobby the rest of the world to make that point. Only need to eat it!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Chinese foods with all the regional differences not included but Mexican foods are ? I am not sure Japanese foods want to be included in the UNESCO list.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most of these comments are stupid.

Both French and Mexican cuisine made the UNESCO list after meeting certain criteria, not based on taste.

Some of those requirents were that-- the ingredients were specifically cultivated for certain dishes, farming techniques, unique utensils/tools made for preparation, etc.

Mexican made the list because of corn, tomatoes, chocolate, chilli peppers, etc, are main ingridients that were domesticated there for millennia. They are an important contribution to all gastronomy.

I think Indian cuisine would qualify if a proper submission were made. Japanese on the other hand would not because the ingredients are all common and peperations are not complex enough. Again, its not based on taste, more about ingredients/cultivation/farming/complexity/utensils/tools,etc.

It's silly to take any of this as a personal attack.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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