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09.35  Culinary Nationalism and Food Heritage: The Case of Japan

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Washoku (literally, “Japanese food”) is now formally designated as Intangible Heritage of Humanity under the cultural heritage inscription system of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In Japan, this formal inscription of washoku into the UNESCO system was considered a victory for Japanese food; the excellence if not superiority of Japanese food was seen to have been validated through official heritage status.

This paper will look at how culinary nationalism has been performed in Japan, especially through the application process for the UNESCO inscription of Japanese food and toward its eventual designation. It also considers related activities and policies of the Japanese government, which was primarily responsible for the UNESCO application, within the context of culinary nationalism, with particular focus on Japan’s accreditation system for Japanese restaurants and sushi shops outside of Japan.

The discussion will focus on the ways in which formal “heritagization” of Japanese food has affected or even consolidated culinary nationalism in the Japanese context, not only on the side of the Japanese government, but also among the general public. It will also consider the effects of culinary nationalism in Japan on social, political, and economic interests, including national food production and trade policies and consumer food trends and attitudes.

Voltaire Cang


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