In December 2013, when UNESCO formally recognized washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) as part of the World's Intangible Cultural Heritage, the reaction here was mixed.

On the one hand there was jubilation and national pride. On the other, dismay that the world at large knew so little about Japan's food culture apart from sushi. Clearly something had to be done.

As a first step, the government sponsored a major symposium in Kyoto last month called Washoku-do. It brought together some of Japan's most revered chefs, including Yoshihiro Murata, of the Kyoto kaiseki (multicourse) restaurant Kikunoi, and Toru Okuda, who runs two Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants in Tokyo, and also one in Paris.