Japan’s remarkable passion for France and its food continues unabated. Whether measured by the proliferation of Michelin-starred bistros here, the ubiquity of patisseries turning out flawless croissants and baguettes or any other metric, this is clearly much more than an infatuation. It has become a deep and serious love affair.

Even more remarkable is that this taste for French cuisine has also been taking firm root outside of major Japanese cities. These days, talented, creative independent chefs can be found across the country, sometimes in the most far-flung and unlikely of locations.

There are manifold reasons for this, such as better, faster transportation, greater disposable income, increasingly sophisticated palates and higher expectations for dining out when traveling. Add to this a boom in wine connoisseurship, a growing appreciation of regional produce, the viral spread of social media and the impact of gastronomic awards — not least the Japan Times’ annual Destination Restaurants series, now in its fourth year.