vol.035 - New Food Culture Created by Communities and Cities


Five years have passed since washoku was added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). There are now an estimated 120,000 Japanese restaurants outside of Japan, a twofold increase in the last 10 years. The number of visitors to Japan in 2018 surpassed 30 million people, a threefold increase in the last 5 years. Local foods rank third in terms of what tourists want to do at sightseeing destinations, as the international gaze on Japan’s food culture expands to regional Japan.

In Japan, Tsuruoka city in Yamagata Prefecture was registered as Japan’s only UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2014. Regional foods and food culture are gaining renewed recognition, and the food culture industry is being promoted in collaboration with cities in efforts that are underway to link it with regional economic growth and cultural development.

On December 4, 2018, the National Institutes for the Humanities, in association with the Ajinomoto Foundation for Dietary Culture, held a symposium entitled “How Japanese local food cultures contribute to the sustainable development of local communities” at the Ajinomoto Group Takanawa Training Center in Minato-ku, Tokyo. The symposium brought together food producers, consumers, researchers, and the government to consider policies that ensure resources such as regional foods and food culture are preserved in the future.

The symposium kicked off with a presentation by Masayuki Okuda, owner/chef of the Italian restaurant Al-ché-cciano in Tsuruoka city, and Okuda discussed initiatives to bring vitality to communities through food, based on his own experiences. Professor Satoshi Ishikawa of Tokai University followed this and discussed how marine resources should be sustainably utilized through cooperation between researchers, fishery operators, and the government, and how communities should be vitalized.

The panel discussion started with Dr. Norie Tamura, Senior Researcher of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN), describing North America’s Food Policy Councils1. Under the moderation of Professor Hein Mallee, Deputy Director-General of RIHN, the panelists provided multifaceted perspectives on how to sustainably make use of food resources, including the importance of knowing one’s own community well and having confidence to sustainably use resources, and of being proud of one’s own initiatives to protect regional resources by having them evaluated externally. Other topics included reassessing conventional urban food systems that separate producers and consumers and the need to build social systems that can supply food sustainably by building new food systems that incorporate consumers.

1Food Policy Councils comprise government, consumer, and business representatives to address urban issues such as town building and the environment comprehensively by resolving issues of regional food systems.

Text: Yuriko Kikuchi


Presentation by Masayuki Okuda

Presentation by Professor Satoshi Ishikawa

Symposium in session