Washoku, as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
December 4, 2013, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization agreed to register washoku, otherwise known as traditional Japanese cuisine, as an intangible cultural heritage, a social custom handed down from generation to generation that expresses Japanese people’s respect for nature. The word “Washoku” is comprised of two components, “Wa” and “Shoku”. “Wa” means Japan and “Shoku” means to eat.
The registration is not only about the food itself, but also about the culture and traditions that go along with the ingredients.
This registration has triggered a large worldwide Japanese food boom.
Features of Washoku
The Japanese government gave the following 4 characteristics as the main features of washoku when applying for UNESCO registration.
- Diversity and freshness of ingredients, and respect for their inherent flavors
- An exceptionally well-balanced and healthy diet
- An expression of natural beauty and the changing seasons
- Close links with annual events
1.Diversity and freshness of ingredients, and respect for their inherent flavors
Japan extends some 3,000 km from north to south with rich nature, such as the sea, mountains and countryside. Thanks to these features, each area uses a variety of ingredients that have their roots in that particular region. Moreover, cooking methods and utensils that take advantages of the flavors of these ingredients are also highly developed.
2. An exceptionally well-balanced and healthy diet
“One Soup and Three Side Dishes”, which is the basic style of eating Japanese is considered to be the ideal nutritional balance. In addition, using umami flavor, washoku is creating a dietary culture that makes minimal use of animal fats which plays an important role in the longevity and prevention of obesity for Japanese.
3. An expression of natural beauty and the changing seasons
Expressing the beauty of nature and seasonal changes at the dinner table is also one of the attractive feature of Washoku. Washoku makes people enjoy the seasonality by decorating the dishes with seasonal flowers or leaves, and also by using implements and plates that match the season.
4. Close links with annual events
Japanese culture emerged through a close relationship with annual events. They make strong family and regional bonds by spending mealtimes together and sharing meals.
- “What is Washoku”, Taste of Japan, 2 March, 2022
- "Washoku" was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (in Japanese), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2 March,2022