Food production in Japan is not in great shape. For decades, rural populations have dwindled and local farmers have been undercut by imports, at both the cheap and luxury ends of the market. Current plans to open up Japan's famously closed farming market through free-trade pacts sound like a death knell for traditional agriculture.

Change is needed, and there could be lessons to be drawn from the other side of the world. In Scandinavia, agriculture is still a vital, thriving sector. More than just remaining viable, the work of growing, catching and supplying food is starting to gain recognition and cachet.

This is a reflection of the new restaurant culture that has emerged in northern Europe. The axis of eating has shifted away from the Mediterranean, and a new generation of chefs is looking to its own traditions, rather than the haute cuisines of the old regimes, France and Italy.