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2014年 2月 7日 The Intangible Value of Washoku

Hi, everyone!

If you were asked to pick a favorite food, what would you choose? Something Japanese like sushi? Italian pasta? Middle Eastern kebabs?

Japanese food has long been popular around the world but interest in our food and culinary traditions recently seems to be reaching a new level. During my last trip to the US, I was quite surprised to find “osechi” boxes and a wide selection of sake sold at supermarkets in Los Angeles. Along with the spread of Japanese food, the language of food seems to also be growing. One example: The word “dashi,” I was told, is understood by a surprising number of native English speakers.

That recognition got a boost in December when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added “washoyu” to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list (Mukei Bunka Isan).

What’s the significance of being added to the list? The intangible cultural heritage list includes ceremonies, music, dances and other customs that are handed down from generation to generation but are at risk of disappearing in our increasingly globalized world. The UN program is set up to safeguard those vulnerable traditions by raising awareness of them.

According to UNESCO, washoku’s significance comes from being associated with “the spirit of respect for nature that is closely related to the sustainable use of natural resources.” The cuisine also plays a role strengthening social cohesion, UNESCO said, citing how washoku is a centerpiece of our New Year celebrations. “The Japanese make various preparations to welcome the deities of the incoming year, pounding rice cakes and preparing special meals and beautifully decorated dishes …These dishes are served on special tableware and shared by family members or collectively among communities,” the UNESCO said.

We can also play a role. We can show appreciation for our own culinary customs and pass them on to future generations. Home cooking that your parents or grandparents prepare is precious, isn’t it? Some of you living away from your hometowns might understand that well.

You may be still recovering from sleepless nights and fatigue of the exam season, so why not relax and celebrate your upcoming spring vacation with your favorite healthy food!

Senior Advisor

Masanori Kono

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