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.
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
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.