Food fair aims to promote Japanese cuisine

Kyodo News

A three-day gastronomic extravaganza kicked off Monday in Tokyo, bringing in top chefs from around the world to stimulate the culinary industry and promote Japanese food culture.

“Tokyo Taste — the World Summit of Gastronomy 2009″ is the first culinary event of its kind in Japan, organizers said, featuring programs from onstage cooking performances and workshops to exhibition booths for food products.

The industry is hoping this kind of summit will help Japanese cuisine gain further popularity, given that Tokyo has recently been acclaimed by some as the world’s capital of good food, not to mention Michelin awarding more to restaurants here than in any other city.

“Japanese food is the most closely watched in the world,” former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said at an opening ceremony.

“The importance of not clinging to stereotypes, I think I learned from sushi.”

Koizumi said it was unthinkable for many Japanese until recently that the national cuisine of sliced raw fish on seasoned rice would become so popular worldwide.

“I hope this summit will further promote Japanese food culture,” he said.

A string of celebrity chefs from Australia, Britain, China, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States are taking part in the event to demonstrate their culinary magic in front of hundreds of spectators at Tokyo International Forum.

These include Joel Robuchon from France, the world’s most Michelin-starred chef, Ferran Adria from Spain, head chef of famed Catalan restaurant El Bulli, and Kunio Tokuoka, executive chef of Japanese restaurant Kyoto Kitcho.

Some of the organizers believe Tokyo’s gastronomic prowess is an invaluable asset and should be used to attract more foreign tourists to Japan.

Amid the global economic downturn and rise in the yen’s value, Japan is facing an uphill battle of achieving its goal of expanding the number of foreign visitors to 20 million in 2020 from 8.35 million in 2008.

By contrast, 80 million people a year pay a visit to France, the world’s top tourist destination.