"Washoku" traditional Japanese cuisine has been added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, raising the government's hopes of enhancing its global recognition, attracting more foreign tourists and boosting exports of the country's agricultural products.
The government's proposal was formally approved Wednesday at a meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in Baku, the Cultural Affairs Agency said, adding that the panel valued the spiritual tradition of respecting nature associated with washoku.
The move comes as the country faces a low food self-sufficiency rate of around 40 percent on a calorific intake basis as well as the spread of Western eating habits. Washoku became the 22nd Japanese asset to be listed on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which also includes kabuki, noh and bunraku.
"We are truly happy," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said of the UNESCO recognition in a statement released Thursday morning. "We would like to continue passing on Japanese food culture to the generations to come . . . and would also like to work harder to let people overseas appreciate the benefits of washoku."
The government is hoping that the registration will help ease safety concerns over the country's food products amid the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which was triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
As changes in social and economic structures as well as the globalization of food have raised concern about whether communities can continue to pass down traditional Japanese dietary cultures, the government also hopes the heritage listing will help younger generations recognize the value of such cultures.
Kiyotoshi Tamura, an official of the Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad, expressed hope that efforts will be made to advertise Japanese foods, saying: "The recognition of Japanese cuisine will definitely increase."
The government made a proposal for UNESCO registration of the country's food culture in 2012.