• Kyodo

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Katsushi Kunimoto believes that when it comes to food, slow is the way to go.

The Nagoya resident is founder of the Japan Slow Food Association. The term “slow food” in the group’s name does not refer to speed, however, but to fare that is natural, traditional, diverse and skillfully prepared — everything that fast food is not.

And Kunimoto particularly believes Japan’s traditional food has much to offer, not just to Japanese but to people throughout the world.

“A lot of Japan’s culinary heritage should be introduced overseas, including hometown cooking and regional types of sake,” he said.

The Japan Slow Food Association relies on the Internet to convey its message. Information and topics covered by the group include everything from the traditional and regional ingredients found throughout Japan to the efforts Yamaguchi Prefecture day-care centers make in preparing homemade-type lunches for children rather than providing frozen meals.

Kunimoto, 47, is especially keen to inform children of the world of flavors that exist outside fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

“It is said the palate can be created until the age of 10, but it won’t develop through uniform, standardized food,” he said. “It’s important to explain (to children) such things as how fruit grows and how fish are caught.”

The group’s “food education” plans include taste tests where participants sort “mikan” oranges by their sweetness, or give parents and children the chance to cast fishnets. It also includes a comprehensive guide covering the history of food and flavors.

“I want to leave to the next generation an appreciation of the diversity of food as a culture,” he said.

Kunimoto’s group is part of the worldwide Arcigola Slow Food organization, set up in the Italian town of Bra in 1986. There are currently about 60,000 members in 35 countries.

Kunimoto first learned of the organization in the early 1990s and joined shortly afterward. He established the Japan chapter in 1999.

The international group’s creed is that health is not the only victim of fast food — it also destroys the environment and wipes out regional cuisine throughout the world.

Fast food, according to this philosophy, is a symptom of the “fast life” we are all forced to lead, which has caused our quality of life in recent years to deteriorate.

The group’s manifesto says, “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.”

Kunimoto has a lifelong association with traditional cuisine. He was raised in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, the home of “Kaga ryori,” one of Japan’s main regional cuisines and considered among the nation’s finest. The cuisine features a wide range of refined dishes, including duck, lotus root and burdock, and includes a large number of seasonal delicacies.

Kunimoto works as a designer, mainly in the field of urban planning, although his interests and expertise cover a wide spectrum. Sculpture and the appreciation of wine and sake are among his hobbies.

“They are all things that create a kind of harmony,” he said. “It’s the same with slow food.”

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