DestinationsAs borders reopens, Japan's banking on its rich food heritage and culture of artisanal quality to draw travellers.

Japan serves up its unique culture – one dish at a time

By
|
Even though Japan is renowned for its top quality produce, the country continues elevating its culinary prowess with new innovative dining concepts.
Even though Japan is renowned for its top quality produce, the country continues elevating its culinary prowess with new innovative dining concepts.

With everything from beautiful depachika bento boxes to the art of moritsuke (food presentation) for kaisekis and more, there is much to discover about Japan through its gastronomy experience. The food scene is never dull, and at a time when tourists are returning in droves, Japan surprises even more.

Caffeine lovers will be delighted with the burgeoning coffee scene, where the spotlight has shifted from barista skills to quality single origin beans. The “fourth wave”, said to have started during the pandemic and focused on making coffee more accessible to everyone, offers high grade brews without the high-brow theatrics. Pour overs emphasise taste over turnout where water chemistry and beans influence the final experience. In Tokyo, Arise Coffee and Hearts Light Coffee lead the trend.

Pour over coffee at Tokyo's Arise Coffee.
Pour over coffee at Tokyo's Arise Coffee.

While fresh, local and seasonal are synonymous with Japanese cuisine, Japan continues to elevate the farm-to-table and sustainable dining concepts. Showcasing urban farming at its best, the Yaoichi Honkan commercial complex in Kyoto has a rooftop farm that supplies ingredients to two of the building’s restaurants, Savory and Kyo-No-Okazu.

One hour south of Osaka, Villa Aida in Wakayama purees fresh almonds grown onsite with local sesame for its signature dish of deep-fried mizu-nasu eggplant with green onions. It only sources fresh produce and game from neighbouring farms mere steps from its doors. For their efforts in championing a more environmentally and socially sustainable food system and supply chain, Villa Aida took 14th spot at this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

The appetite for vegan meanwhile has shone the spotlight on another gastronomical legacy: Shojin-ryori. This traditional food of Buddhist priests is the best example of an environmentally friendly and sustainable option as every ingredient is used in its entirety. Shojin-ryori not only introduces guests to a refined experience of plant-based cuisine but has also inspired many vegan eateries across the nation, ranging from vegan cheeses to elegant wagashi or traditional Japanese confections.

Shojin-ryori has influenced many vegan eateries across Japan, from vegan cheeses to elegant wagashi confections (shown above).
Shojin-ryori has influenced many vegan eateries across Japan, from vegan cheeses to elegant wagashi confections (shown above). Photo Credit: Anis Ramli

While washoku, or Japanese food, was designated an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2013, Japanese cuisine doesn't get more refined than Kyo-ryori, the unique culinary culture of the city of Kyoto. Refined over centuries, the expression of "Kyoto-ness" permeates everything, including the artistry, the furnishings within the room and the level of hospitality.

To show that the country truly is a gourmand’s delight, Japan is hosting the 7th UNWTO World Forum on gastronomy tourism from December 12-15, 2022. The Forum will focus on the role of gastronomy tourism in enhancing the value for destinations and food producers, as well as showcasing best practices in destination branding through gastronomy tourism, among others.

With the resumption of international travel in October 2022, it looks like Japan is well on the way to reclaim its crown as a top destination for gourmand tourists moving forward.

Welcome to PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore

Eco-friendly practices and innovations, thoughtfully integrated at PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore, provide sustainable travel experiences for everyone.

Read Now

The Brightest Travel Stars Shine
October - December 2022 eBook

A salute to the top performers across Asia Pacific’s travel industry.

Read Now



JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI