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2013年11月 4日 (月)

無形文化遺産 世界に認められた和食の魅力

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 4, 2013
UNESCO recognition of washoku for heritage list may preserve Japan food
無形文化遺産 世界に認められた和食の魅力(11月3日付・読売社説)

A wonderful opportunity has arisen to savor afresh Japan’s splendid cuisine.

A preliminary screening by UNESCO has recommended that Japanese cuisine, which is known as washoku, be put on the U.N. body’s world Intangible Cultural Heritage list. A final decision on the listing is scheduled for December.

UNESCO designation of the world’s intangible cultural heritage assets is a system to preserve refined elements of cultures such as performing arts, social customs and traditional crafts.

We are pleased washoku has been acknowledged as an intrinsic part of human culture with universal value.

The recommended designation of washoku for UNESCO’s food-related cultural heritage list follows listings of such cuisines as French fare, Mediterranean dishes and traditional Mexican food.

Using many delicacies from land and sea, washoku is not only rich in taste but also superbly well-balanced nutritionally. As washoku represents the beauty of nature and a sense of the season, its table presentation is magnificent and the use of eating utensils meticulous. It is closely linked with such annual events as New Year’s celebrations and harvest festivals.

In citing its reason for its recommendation, the UNESCO body that screens cultural asset candidates said in effect that washoku played an important role in ensuring the cohesion of Japan’s society.

Dietary habits vanishing

Regrettably, however, Japan’s traditional dietary habits appear on the verge of becoming a thing of the past. Even the basic style of washoku cuisine called “ichiju-sansai,” comprising a soup, a main dish and two side dishes, seems to be on the way out.

Recently, some people have noted that there is a “breakdown of habits at the table,” with breakfast generally taking the form of snacks and family members separately eating food they favor at any time of the day.

If this situation does not change, the washoku culture could eventually vanish. Measures should be devised to have washoku handed down to future generations in a way suitable to its U.N.-designated status as an intangible cultural heritage asset.

The charm of washoku should be conveyed to children as part of their school education.

It might be a good idea to include traditional local dishes in school lunch menus and have professional washoku chefs give cooking demonstrations as part of dietary education at school.

Also important is to nurture washoku experts. For example, the Kyoto prefectural government is considering creating a course in a university on washoku, with the aim of nurturing washoku chefs and teachers in charge of washoku-related lessons.

According to the findings in a survey conducted by the Japan External Trade Organization in seven countries and territories, Japanese meals topped the list of dishes respondents cited as their favorite. There are more than 55,000 Japanese restaurants overseas, apparently a reflection of worldwide popularity and the refined taste of Japanese meals.

Washoku’s broth, noted for its deliciousness and referred to as umami, has drawn the attention of chefs from around the world, having been incorporated into French and other cuisines.

Sending messages overseas about the quality of Japanese meals is one of the major pillars of the government’s “cool Japan” action programs, and is part of the country’s economic growth strategy.

We look forward to seeing more visitors from abroad enjoying “omotenashi,” or the Japanese style of hospitality, through washoku.

(The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 3, 2013)
(2013年11月3日01時35分  読売新聞)


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