Gastronomy as a Tourist Attraction in Japan
Okay. Welcome to our session on gastronomy. Well, gastronomy. Sounds like something a little bit off topic for this conference, but I think that it's really important to discuss this because, as you know, Japan is has become a top tourist destination over the last maybe decade or so. And one of the main key attractions that tourists come to Japan for is food. And food in the sense of gastronomy
is important because the way most of the international visitors get access to Japanese food is through restaurants, and they visit, of course, casual eateries, but also high end places that involve not just tastiness, but also history, culture and tradition. So that's why we are talking about gastronomy in this session. Before going into further details, I'd like to take a step back and put things in perspective. We, the Japanese people, most Japanese people think that the Japanese gastronomy scene, the culinary scene, is great, but how is it great and is it really great? I like to put things in a global comparative perspective. So what are the strengths and weaknesses of the of Japan as a culinary destination? I especially ask get inputs from a few international experts. We have the chef, Daniel Covert, and also our journalist, Belinda Jo. What are your thoughts on that?
I think that if we compare Japan as a culinary destination to other areas of the world, I think that one of the strengths is that it has its own unique identity. And of course, you know, so does France, sort of Spain, where I'm from in England, we don't actually have that kind of identity. So I think that when people are coming to Japan, they are specifically coming to eat Japanese cuisine, whether it be sushi kaiseki or vis a vis. But I think that that is one of the strengths that you have, that you have this identity that people immediately when they come to Japan, they know exactly what they want to eat. I think that, of course, unique cultural identity is a strength, but also the high standard of quality Japan.
When it comes to food, Japanese culture is a culture of connoisseurship. And so Japanese consumers really understand quality and they're willing to pay for quality. And increasingly, a lot of international visitors feel the same way. So how about from a restaurant business perspective? What are the strengths of Japanese restaurants vis a vis those in other countries? Well, the specialization that Daniel mentioned, I mean, I think that's something that's very unique. You have so many restaurants that are focused on getting one dish or one style of food just absolutely pitch perfect. And I think this is really great.
This is something that even consumers can that makes it actually easy for consumers in a way, because if they know, like what you said, that they want to have sushi or that they want to have yakitori, then they know where to search and which restaurants to go to, Of course. And I think aside from the cuisine and the wine, I think there's a certain hospitality that exists in a Japanese restaurant that doesn't necessarily exist in in other styles of restaurants. So I think while people, of course, crave the cuisine and and the wine and the and the and the region, they're going to they actually crave the service and the hospitality just as much. Right. And that's going to be an increasingly important point going forward, because we are entering an age where the competitive where the the market is so competitive with restaurants because we have such good quality and such high standards already and we have more people entering the field. So if you're going to, for example,
have a restaurant in Tokyo, you need to have already amazing food. That's just the the standard. That's just the point of entry at this point. So what is going to really differentiate your restaurant or your establishment from your competitors? And that point, I think, is hospitality. Right. Thank you. To to play the devil's advocate. What are the things that are not great about Japanese culinary scene? I think accessibility is a is a big issue for for for many people coming into into the country to try to eat at these restaurants. That, of course.
Regionally also celebrated that would actually bring people to regions or cities or or wherever. But when you get there, actually getting into these places can be quite a challenge, right, In terms of the limited seating capacity for a lot of restaurants, the difficulty of securing reservations, the fact that a lot of restaurants still don't have a digital platform or any kind of digital presence to deal with some of these overseas queries or non-Japanese speaking guests. That's one issue. But another thing that I think just from in terms of like the kinds of restaurants that we have, what is really great about Tokyo, for example, is that there's a lot of diversity. You have very traditional restaurants side by side with very contemporary restaurants. But one thing that I feel is and
you guys like, I would love to hear if you have different opinions, but one thing that I feel is lacking a little bit is really contemporary creative Japanese cuisine. Like we see a lot of younger chefs that are making more creative cuisine, but like really based in sort of a Western European tradition. And I would really like to see more experimentation in the genre of Japanese cuisine and see where that goes. Yeah, I agree with you. The that's kind of the reason
why I think that this restaurant called Den in Shibuya, the gourmet is number one on the edges. 50 best restaurants in 2022 then offers a rare mix of traditional Japanese cooking with innovation. And also it's a playful restaurant where you enjoy the experience, not just the food, but the presentation, etc., which is something you don't typically find in Japanese restaurants. As you know, as Melindo said, I think that the Japanese Japanese restaurants are good at perfecting one thing with the with the already defined recipe and which is something I see in Japan as well as in China. You know, these are artisans. They they do the same thing over and
over again to perfect one thing. And people are not really receptive to innovations. But I guess that also comes from the guest perspective, too. I guess you go to these restaurants
and you know exactly what you want to have, and if it deviates from that ever so slightly, I think that there is an expectation when you go to a high end sushi, are you going to have X, Y and Z? And I think if someone started playing around with that, that that protocol, I think as a guest especially how do you waited it maybe, I don't know, six months to get in. I think that there is an expectation of what you are going to eat, which kind of hinders creativity a little bit. That's a good point. But also, I think for a lot of for a lot of businesses in Japan, there is a high sense of risk aversion. So that kind of hinders creativity
and experimentation a lot. I'm not sure why that is true, but I definitely get that sense that a lot of businesses are very averse to risk. That's right. Thank you. Well, to change the subject a little bit, I'd like to. Well, the you know, the Japanese restaurants have, you know, attained global fame.
Restaurants like Den has become the number one in Asia. These restaurants are doing very well. And many foodies around the world come to Japan to eat at these restaurants. But these are the results of the efforts in terms of efforts made by the chefs and the restaurants, people who work at the restaurants themselves, and not really something that was initiated by the government. But I see in the world that there are many governments that have intentionally and strategically used, you know, the food or the gastronomy as a weapon to enhance their national brand. Can you touch upon that, please?
Yeah, I think the first one that comes to to our minds particularly would be, say, Peru or Latin America, because I think, you know, maybe ten, 15 years ago there was not such a movement out of this country. And now we have household names, someone like Virgilio Martinez, for example, who's who's globally recognized as one of the best Peruvian chefs and of course, now has a restaurant here in Tokyo. But I think that a lot of that support was from the government standpoint. Of course, they did a great job together. But I think that without without that
support, perhaps other restaurants in that area wouldn't have opened up so quickly and they wouldn't have developed such a high, high end scene so fast. Yes, absolutely. The government was instrumental and recognising gastronomy as a tool to increase their national brand, and that practice is called gastro diplomacy. They were very much a pioneer in that space. But another example would be Scandinavia, very successful.
If you look at a city like Copenhagen 20 years ago, Copenhagen would never have been considered a destination for dining. But now dining is one of the main draws for Copenhagen and there is a very much flourishing scene of restaurants and shops and, you know, beer, wine. Exactly. So many places. And that was like with Peru, a joint effort between the private sector and government. And another thing that both of these countries did very well was that their their strategy was not only outward facing to to attract tourists, it was also to encourage trade. So one thing that a lot of one thing that both countries did was try to make well, seek out first, seek out products like agricultural products and promote local producers and local talent, making these products available to people not only overseas but within the country, and also elevating the level of talent with education.
For example, in Peru, like the very big culinary school program that they initiated, that Gusten initiated was instrumental in creating a bigger, better gastronomy scene. To be honest, I can't think of another industry within tourism that would be so much of a draw so regionally than than gastronomy. I mean, I personally travel mostly just to eat at restaurants.
And I think that aside from restaurants to travel, of course, you have a lot of landmarks and tourist attractions. But really what keeps people coming back, I think, is restaurants, right? Because this is a really I think I think gastronomy is one of the most accessible forms of communicating culture. It's something that people can that everyone can appreciate. And certainly you don't need you don't need like language skills to appreciate this and you don't need a lot of background to appreciate it. It's very immediate and intimate, has a lasting impact as well. Are there anything do you think, that the Japanese government can do or local governments can do to help? The gastronomy scene. The. The.
The restaurants, the producers. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, I think because I'm really in Lula area countryside. It's not in Tokyo. So yes, it's government a really need to kind of got my hopes to developing a mindset to like finance good producing and the educated local and also these farmers as well. But also same time we do sometimes ourselves doing some like joined together to small event our kitchen because it's easier because it's compared to like a think about tourists, also some restaurants and producer. It's kind of a defined office in the government if it's connected together to we ask to office to discount together things is take a long time like a two or three months to hop to the event. So we like to duplicate happen
to immediately or to seasonally. So we do by ourselves, but it's it's possible to help together, even like local government help us. It's a really appreciated but it takes that timing as well. In addition to the Japanese government, also recognized gastronomy or luxury tourism is the one key issue to reactivate the Japanese economy. That's why the Japanese Ministry
of Food, Agriculture or Japanese Agency of National Tourism make a budget to promote that such kind of tourism or luxury tourism. The problem is that there is no enough curator or producer of that who recognize or understand what is a gastronomy. Tourism is is a problem. I agree with you very much because as a journalist, especially a foreign journalist based in Japan, I get invited to press trips in Japan and I get asked to give my opinions to a lot of local governments regarding the experience and things that I think could be done better.
And I see a lot of areas that need improvement. Gosh, where to even begin? But like just from the journalist perspective, I feel like there is an overreliance or there is a belief, there is a belief among a lot of local governments that just promotion or marketing is enough. But what they fail to recognize is that there are a lot of structural things that really need to be addressed. And one of those issues would be like
accommodation, accessibility, things that we have discussed earlier. But for example, everyone says they would like to target affluent tourists and a lot of times from European or Western countries like the US, but. When you go to a lot of these places, there is a lack of, for example, accommodation that would be at an international standard. So I feel like it would be very much in their interest to make some investments and like strategize on ways that they that they can offer like a different range of accommodations. But then when when journalists like
me try to convey that opinion, it's often met with a lot of resistance. And, you know, even things like smaller sort of more conservative measures could be taken. For example, if you have a really nice token in Japanese inns in a region like for them to be more flexible, to not lock people into like all the meals, for example, but it's really hard for those businesses to take on that kind of feedback. And even things like having coffee at some of these some of these hotels has been like a big issue that I've related, but it's not always heard. Right. Yeah.
Accommodation is is a big issue in many parts of Japan where I travel to and there are nowadays a great number of amazing restaurants in in rural areas around Japan. You know, South Georgia is definitely one and South Georgia is a is a is a restaurant with rooms or auberge in French. So there's accommodation, of course, But in many areas in Japan there are great restaurants, but accommodation is severely lacking. It's a big problem. Even in a big city. It's like a major tourist attraction. Like Kanazawa. There's not a single luxury hotel,
which is amazing for for some reasons, that's at least how I feel. One more thing I just wanted to add is that it would be like, you know, to the point of Hassan's earlier statement about how a lot of places have been working together just on their own to collaborate, I think that bringing thinking, having a wider vision in terms of the government entities and different businesses, getting together, strategizing on how they can really build a community of businesses that can support not just tourism but like have a lot of offerings for local people to enjoy. This is something that I think would be really important going forward because when you have just one place, like one really great restaurant and then people go there for that restaurant, then only that restaurant really benefits.
And then for the for the guests, they don't really find a lot of other things to do. So they're, you know, so they're not going to stick around. I think trying to figure out ways to create a cluster of businesses that can support this industry is very important. Yeah, I think it's like it's kind of like a mountain, a pyramid. I always think about this because it's kind of like a top restaurant, I say, or to all the things coming to the top restaurant really fast and going down to the kind of the down bottom. So I think for us we go that
it's no secret. So we're sharing everything like what we run from, like the kind of those things to sharing for the local people to kind of educate until the food is going up. So I think this is quite important, not only the one big top restaurant to growing up, but it's also local to educate and feed together food and sharing support. Yeah, right. There's something that definitely a good point. Thanks very much. Well, I'd like to now talk about
the world post COVID, which is the main theme of this events. So many of us actually have traveled around the world after the COVID has kind of settled down. And we noticed that the tourism and FBA sectors are booming. And in the US and Europe and there's a, you know, to the point where the infrastructure is strained, you know, you have airplane delays and cancellations. And, you know, I have suffered a lot already myself.
And restaurants are operating at shorter hours. Even if there's a lot of demand, they can't operate as they used to because they just don't have enough people. Labour shortage is serious, not just in FNB, but but especially in FNB, where people got traumatised by being in the industry like their mom and dad would say, Oh, don't go into FNB, you know, it's dangerous, you know, get out, get a stable job. So, you know, that's happening everywhere in the world. And but.
Japan is about to open the border fully starting tomorrow. So there will be an influx of tourists like we used to have until 2019 or even more in coming months or at least next year. And what are the lessons that that Japan can learn from the experience that these countries like Europe and the US are already experiencing? I think from a restaurant standpoint, I would say, you know, I just spent the last month in Europe. I think that a lot of these restaurants and businesses are pivoted in terms of labor for sure, because there is no labor to operate seven days a week, lunch and dinner anymore. It just doesn't exist. And I think that was a problem even before COVID that I hate to say this there were too many restaurants and there was too many restaurants and not enough staff now.
Unfortunately, a lot of those places have closed. However, a lot of people have also left the industry, like you said, Taco fumi. But I think that when I was in Europe, I think that a lot of the restaurants were operating on a four day workweek. Nobody, not as many people want to work those hours that were demanded of you and F and B before, you know, maybe 15, 15, 20 years ago, we were working six, five, six days a week, 18 hours a day. And fortunately and unfortunately,
people don't want to do that anymore, myself included. To be honest, I'm getting a little older. So to find the staff to to staff a full restaurant, you know, throughout the whole week is just impossible. And I think the economics of the
business don't don't work if you do. Due to the rise in labor costs. So I think that, you know, for example, at the Four Seasons, we operate five days a week, four days only for lunch. Now, that's not necessarily due to to labor shortages.
More people want to work fit their work around their lives rather than the other way around, like when I first joined the industry for sure. Yeah. Belinda, what do you think, based on your recent travels? Well, as I was saying earlier, Japan never experienced the same kind of hard lockdowns that a lot of cities or countries around the world did. And in one way, that was really great, you know, from the consumer's perspective, especially because we we were living in a kind of bubble. And it was great that the government was able to offer some subsidies for the government, for for the food industry for the first couple of years. But this year, I've heard from a
lot of restaurants that they are suffering immensely because those subsidies have run out and they're still they're still dealing with the consequences of the pandemic with fewer customers and shortened hours and also staffing issues. So like a whole plethora of issues. But in countries where we've seen a lot of really hard lockdowns, we have seen a lot of bankruptcies, which of course is really unfortunate. But when I was in Bangkok, for example, I noticed that the a lot of those businesses that disappeared have really reinvented themselves and they have started new businesses and different models of businesses and hybrid businesses. So in that respect, it has been a real opportunity for a lot of them to try something new, something challenging. And it's exciting. It's exciting, right?
So would you already see a pickup in your international guests? International visitors or not yet? Oh, absolutely. I think as soon as the announcement was made, you know, almost every table in the restaurants book till the end of the year, as is most of the hotel rooms. So I think that and of course, we have an overwhelming majority of internationals from that, mostly within the Asia region, a couple from America, but mostly in the Asia region. So yeah, I mean, totally.
I think there's a thirst and a desire to come visit Japan as soon as possible, especially I spent five years in Hong Kong, so it feels like everyone from Hong Kong is now coming to Japan, which is which is a good thing for sure. So yeah, absolutely. I think it was almost as if someone turned a switch overnight and people not necessarily forgot about the pandemic, but they're sort of tired and they want to travel that it's almost let's just get back to business, right? I mean, I've been getting messages every single day from people who have already booked their tickets to Japan and are coming starting tomorrow. Right? Same here. You know, I get messages almost every day asking for sushi side to reservation in two weeks time, which which would not happen. Right. So. So how about Keiko? Are you getting any inquiries from abroad? Yeah, we also have lots of equipment from the embassy already for Asia and also other country.
But it's again, Daniel said we especially in Tokyo, if we say Tokyo, so how to get the people to their work a lot outside countryside as a staff to the good quality is so hard to get. So we it's kind of for me it's understandable because it's sometimes so hard to live in countryside as a chef because I'm not from this the Niigata area. I'm from Saitama. It's just two three years, so hard to live in there to cooking there. But it's I think as a chef side, it's really important to remain there, to really be there. Also to be at a local, to be to connect to the local people.
But it's, you know, at the same time, it's so hard to the young chef to request the kind of like a situation. They just want to run to the 2 to 3 years and they go the other restaurant. So then I think about maybe, maybe I can ask something like an anti auditor budget in the local area to kind of part of this working with us, which is also good because they have time and you know so but it's yeah it's kind of labor shortage is quite very serious and okay so tapping on the resources of local resources of the elderly elderly population have I guess already retired. Can I ask also if you do any sort of mentorship at South Toyama juju for young people who can come and see what you do to maybe even give classes to young people? I'm not sure what, but that's a good question.
It's don't but it's I think it's those days some of the young shift to interesting not only working there's a quite option optional for them to not only work in the top high end chef restaurant in Tokyo, but they also are looking for the other countryside to work in. But it's same time again, it's not easy things to work in the countryside. I think it's the same like working in Tokyo, like working hours, things as well. I work quite like a six days a week. I think that, yeah, for sure. I think the future will be more collaboration and especially where we are. We've started to collaborate with more with culinary schools, for example, and try to, you know, plant the seed and inception where we can have the kids come from such a younger age to join us and maybe they will spend a little more time with us. But yeah, of course it's a challenge
because the younger generation don't necessarily follow one path. Like you say. They want to want to stay for a year, two years and then jump to the next one. Whereas I think it was a little different before.
But there's more choices than ever. That's the problem. Do so quick on the cake or you have also visited Austria recently and how do you see the culinary scene there? I guess it's booming and everybody's kind of eating out, etc.. Yeah, it's quite surprising me because it's there were no one mask where the mask and also there's a big band, it's a huge band I attend and also I cook in there. It's I think they kind of already back to this coronary industries quite now. It's busy now and yeah, it's back to normal already. Yeah, I was just in Spain, in Madrid
a couple of weeks ago and again, same thing, no masks and people were definitely going out. Places were fully booked. This there's like a not we don't really feel the same sort of pandemic feeling that we still have a little bit here in Tokyo. Right. So, you know, touching upon the labor shortage, do you think that this is going to get worse in Japan as the business picks up? What do you think? I don't think it's going to get worse. I don't know how it can get worse, to be honest. I think that really bad. Yes, quite dire. Please don't get worse. No, I think that, you know,
I would talk from where I'm from, there's a huge interest in younger cooks from abroad. I get many resumes every day from abroad. And only now if we've been able to get them in to the country. Well, maybe six months ago.
But that that is very promising, I think, because if I'm getting quite a few resumes, I'm sure a lot of the higher end Japanese restaurants also are, too. So I hope that there is opportunity for the for the chefs to hire from abroad to to to bolster their teams. You know, I think it's it's only a good thing. Have you gotten any kind of inquiries in that same direction, like from young chefs overseas who want to come and do an apprenticeship, really like to do that. But it's same time, it's sometimes so hard to is because our kind of typical Japanese cuisine restaurant, it's it's okay to just come to our restaurant to in-town for six months. We had some times before the coronavirus happened but yeah but we like to do that. We try to get kind of income from
the street and employ a staff. If the local government help us or something, help us do really good. I think to that, for example, like what you just did when you were in Austria participating in the was it go meal in a really big culinary event overseas helps to raise the visibility of of restaurants outside of major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto.
And I think this is something that a lot of Japanese chefs should be encouraged to do more. I think that up until now, a lot of Japanese chefs have been hesitant to participate in these kind of global conferences. And maybe that's something that the government could actually help with a little bit in terms of giving some subsidies for travel or assistance in some way. But going back to what we were talking about, gastro diplomacy earlier, another country that had a very aggressive gastro diplomacy program was Korea. And one like their strategy was very different, but also very interesting in that they provided scholarships for young chefs to go study at culinary school overseas.
And that not only raised the level of of techniques in especially in Western cuisine or non Korean cuisine, but it also helped them network and see how how businesses are run in a different place. And I think that might be something that's interesting for the Japanese government to pursue as well. But do you think that from what I see about the young Japanese cooks, they all want to learn French cuisine and then go go to France for a couple of years and come back to Japan and and execute almost what they were learning over there rather than going somewhere else and being forced, like you say, to, to, to be a little more creative. Yeah, but for example, with Korea, the the chefs couldn't choose where to go. They, they were sent. So, you know, for example to the US would be what was one of the largest places where where these students were dispatched. So, I mean, you know, it's true that a lot of when you this goes back to what I was saying about creative cuisine in Japan, it almost always seems to be focused on a western sort of sort of base foundation.
People want to go to France, they want to go to Italy and study. But there are so many other options. And then again, looking looking at the cuisine of Japan, I know it's very intimidating because of like what you were saying, talk Afghanistan about how the the idea is to perfect one technique, one kind of like that. The idea is that there is a right and there's a wrong.
So if there's some way to loosen that idea, then a lot of people might be more interested in trying to pursue more creative Japanese cuisine, right? Yeah, I think it's quite hard, especially I think, talking about Japanese cuisine Kaiseki or it's kind of they don't want to say that, but it's kind of some kitchen so close they don't want to share anything too sometimes. So I think if it's growing up all over, the food is sometimes we need a sharing and even each other. Absolutely. And that is what helped Spain really propel its food culture forward.
And then going on that model, that's what Peruvians did. They a lot of it. Well, not a lot. And most of the Peruvian chefs got together and collaborated, sharing everything and also promoting each other. And that's something that I would love to see happen more in Japan to the where chefs support each other, recommend for different kinds of opportunities. And, you know, I think that that would really make things a lot more exciting. We you know, we experienced that kind of thing firsthand in Hong Kong, for example, because, you know, there's such a huge culinary identity in Hong Kong and China.
But the majority of kids who were learning to cook, they didn't want to go to work in Chinese restaurants because they felt that they weren't going to learn anything because no one wanted to pass anything down. So they would come to work in Western or French restaurants because they're learning and their career progression would actually be a lot quicker. Which is sad because I'm not saying that there's not as many great Chinese restaurants opening, but compared to to Western restaurants in Hong Kong, it's for sure having a negative impact. Interesting.
Thank you. Well, I'd like to. Well, because we have a Keiko and Kiska here, I would like to focus on how that influx of expected coming back of international tourists would impact rural areas. And I think this is very important because if we just if tourists just come to places like Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa, there'll be an issue of overtourism. There will be negative impact as well, because places like Kanazawa just last week it was already flooded with tourists and it's so difficult to get a seat at Shinkansen at peak times. So it makes sense for everyone to kind of, you know, to make sure that people spread out and explore other parts of Japan that are equally as attractive. What are the opportunities that you think exist for rural areas in Japan in terms of gastronomy? Keiko What do you think? Yeah, it's a tourist. Tourist is very important for us.
We kind of depend on that, but at the same time it's sometimes happen negative impact to the local people, to the tourists. That's true. So I think it's important thing is is relationship and respect each other. So, yeah, that's a point to see that kind of look, especially at the local area with some local people sometimes doesn't want to get foreigners sometimes because they don't understand what they saying about the barrier is very hard for this local area or area. So yeah, it's a relationship. Respect each other. It's kind of like a basic stuff is quite important. Yeah. Like, what are the are there anything that the government is doing to promote tourism and. Well, which is of course as you
guys know, famous for whisky and also it's becoming famous for wine as well. Yes. You know, from the point of view, the Japanese GDP, 40% is higher in the Tokyo area and Aichi and Tokyo and a Kansai area. It's me and the rest of the 60% of the Japanese GDP are in the local area. Right. That's a point from this point of view. Local areas, tourism and the gastronomy.
Tourism and tourism industry is very important for the reactivate Japanese economy. In addition to that, I, as a reader of local government to aiming to promote the local tourism, is to reinforce and increase local Japanese Japanese itself in this. In this point of view, the Japanese are local restaurants. Gastronomy tourism is very important in in addition to that, in Yoichi there is very a famous area for the whisky distillery and wine winery, and this is very important for from the point of view about you said, Hamada said about tourism also. So do you expect people to come to Yoshi for I guess in places like Napa, wine tourism is pretty big, right? People come and they go visit wineries. Is that something that's already
happening in your view, or that could happen in the future? Yes. Grocery is a happening and most of us are tourists who are to Yoichi is focusing in the whisky distillery. But these days now in in this season is a cropping and they are picking the grapes so many tourists know so tourism wine lovers are coming to you right now. And in this point of view we are focusing our so called drive marketing and we define their foodie and wine lover and so called the fired people as a drive and we are focusing the PR to that kind of people, etc.. I just wonder if there is an infrastructure for wine tourism that exists in, in Yoichi because I know that a lot of other there are several for example sake breweries that are not open to the public and you have to really make a lot of efforts to go visit them. And is it like that in Yoichi or No,
it's good point. Infrastructure, including transport, is not so well not so I mean we we because we have to if you go to Yoichi we access to the from support to by train or bus. But a problem of Japanese this transportation is we cannot use. Uber, right? Sharing a car share or sharing transportation is if we reactivates a local economy, we have to change this kind of regulation. So I think. So So your idea, what you're saying is that you would benefit from deregulating and having an Uber like system. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see. And I guess with the IAG,
the problem is that in the near future, the the local train system will be abolished. Right. Because arrival of patient consent. Yeah. And now problem of transportation is by 2030 it Hokkaido sink cell. Will it go to the support from
Hakodate by 2030 local train will be stopped. This is a big problem. That's why we should deregulate that kind of. For example, the we can use the or something. From a global perspective. You know, Daniel and Melinda, what are the attractiveness of the Japanese rural areas, the countryside, vis a vis other destinations? Because I like to I always talk about global perspective because, you know, tourists, you know, they have the choice. They can have the choice of visiting countryside in Japan or in Korea or in China or maybe in Europe.
So they're always comparing. So I think it's it's important to have that perspective. What what do you think? Are they attractive enough that tourists would come or they're not that attractive? I certainly think they're attractive enough in there's certainly enough variety. You know, of course, most most regions we go to in Japan are something different from any other region that that can be found there. But like like you said, the infrastructure sometimes we we had a lot of fun trying to get up to the mountains in Toyama earlier on this year. It almost didn't happen. Yeah, luckily somebody could drive because I can't. But there's definitely enough
attraction to be honest. It's it shows that there is enough attraction in the fact that we actually did it and I would do it again. So of course, you know, there's no end to it for sure. Yeah, I think that the rural areas in Japan certainly are attractive. I mean, right now we see like
already people talking about wanting to go to Kyushu, for example, because you have within this region so much diversity and you have like wonderful natural landscapes, you have like warm, welcoming people and you have amazing food at really amazing prices. So I think that that there's a lot of opportunity, but it's just a matter of finding ways to to actually allow people to access these places with with greater ease and also meeting their needs. So that's one of the problems that I often encounter, is that there's a mismatch of expectations between what the prefecture or the region wants to show and what the tourists or the visitors, rather, and not only international, but particularly international visitors, want to experience. Right. It's a it's a very good point. Even within Japan, I feel that. So when I go visit rural areas, you know, there's a big gap between what they want to show me and what I want to see. It's that's a big, big issue,
I think, in terms of food as well. Some rural areas would say they are the food capital of Japan. And, you know, they had this in this product, which is number one. But, you know, that's that's almost always, you know, quote it in the sense of quantity. So quantity doesn't mean quality. So for from a gastronomical
gastronomic standpoint, you know, a quantity doesn't really mean anything. It's more about quality. And that's the direction that the local government should be pursuing. Given that there would be, of course, the with the agriculture, the lowering of the tariffs and etc.. That's that's my personal view. So, Joe, I agree. Okay. Well, I guess we're running out of time.
We're just barely scratching the surface of this interesting topic, but we're now turning into Q&A sessions. So if you have any questions, please raise your hand. I think we'll be taking questions of offline online as well. Hello. My name's Alex Bradshaw. Run a travel consultancy called Kotaku. I just want to ask a question to Melinda. Hey, Alex. Hello there. Hi. Nice to finally meet you in person.
So, basically, crafts people often say that they have to educate the consumer to bring up the level of the consumer to fully appreciate that the crafts that they produce. Do you think that the education of inbound travelers to Japan regarding Japanese food is something that needs to be worked on harder? And also, how do regions differentiate themselves amongst the high quality of food that's available in the major cities? Okay. So that's actually a lot of questions. So first of all, I think that there is the level of knowledge of of overseas travel travelers with regard to Japanese food is certainly rising. Japanese food has been very trendy
for the past ten years and especially among at the highest level. So, I mean, Daniel can probably speak to this as well. Almost every chef overseas is interested in Japanese cuisine. So I think that that is certainly something that that like we see, we see the level rising in terms of other crafts as well.
People are interested like right now, for example, Kintsugi is so, so popular. So there's a greater awareness of traditional crafts, not a deep, deep awareness. But I think that you'll find among younger Japanese people that that's also true in terms of differentiating from region to region. I mean, that is a really difficult question. Every region has really great products, but I think that it's up to the local people with perhaps like with wonderful chefs like Keiko san to be putting their input and also with like with like very enlightened government entities trying to promote some of those crafts and products and raise them to an international standard.
I think it's important for the governments to have a perspective on objectively on what their really strengths are and weaknesses are, because, you know, one government would say, oh, we're our fish is the best in Japan. But then if you know that if you have trouble to neighboring prefectures and have tasted better fish, you think that's just what they think, you know, And these it's the problem with the governments or producers, you know, they don't really visit their competitors. You know, they don't really identify the competitors and do a comparative analysis, which is something that any business would do, profit making business would do. But there's something, you know, that's lacking amongst governments and also producers who are focused on producing the best quality, whatever that they're making. But do you think that's a
totally agree with you? That's a pride thing more than more than anything else, right? Everyone, every every prefecture is so proud of what they're doing. I guess they feel that they don't have to. Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, I feel like they have to be more open minded. And another thing that I find lacking
is the the deep research into the market they want to connect with. So there is a lack of understanding of, again, like the needs and the desires of the people that they're actually trying to attract. So yeah, there's a lot of study that can be done amongst the producers and, and and purveyors. Definitely. I agree with you. I mean, it's not it's not the field, the movie field of dreams, but it's like if you build it, they will come, you know, if you, you know, make good things, good products, people will buy. It is the mentality that most of the Japanese producers have. But that's not necessarily the case. I mean, it has to be you know, they
have to have a market perspective which is sometimes lacking. Yes. I have a question regarding the point that you raised before about the innovation. So like in. But in overseas, Japanese chefs are also trying their best to do fusion with the cuisine, and the tourists come to Japan. I think most of them take the
effort to come to Japan because they want to experience what is truly traditional Japan. So is that like that Creativity will affect that kind of experience or expectation of the tourists or not? Yeah, I think it's very important to respect traditional and local culture stuff, but at the same time, we innovate as a chef. We're not just repeating the same thing again and again. We associate, we innovate, create new things, but also same time. So however, it's it's kind of we need to back to the absolute for the local. So but it takes time again. Living locally is really important, I
think, to really understand about the local culture and the community. But. It's I think it's it's so hard to find kind of share the countryside to share this kind of knowledge. But I think we should because those that we lost, the kind of knowledge about the traditional things, each region has a traditional cuisine and a lot even a small village has it. But it's, of course, along the problem as well. But it's we have to kind of protect the kind of stuff to share this knowledge, but have to run out as a share to understanding this culture as well. Yeah, You know,
sign into that typhoon. What do you think that a lot of the younger generation who have gone abroad to to learn how to cook and stay there, they feel a little creatively more free and that's why they perhaps are not coming back to back to Japan, I guess. Well, that's one factor. I mean, there are many aspiring chefs in Japan who go abroad and, you know, stage at stage or study at top restaurants in the world. Many of them historically have come back to Japan, but recently, increasingly, maybe some of them are deciding to stay in the countries that they learn their skills or to work in other countries. So Japanese chef, a Japanese chef who honed his skills in France, could open a restaurant in Singapore, for example. That's happening more and more
these days. And that's, as Daniel said, that's probably due to the fact that it's you know, they feel they have they feel like they have more freedom in expressing their creativity. That's definitely one thing. And there's also a business factor as well. As Daniel also mentioned earlier,
the Japanese restaurant scene is very, very competitive. I mean, if you are especially high end, if you are business minded, you wouldn't want to enter it as a as a business person. It's it's such a rare option. So that's definitely another reason, I think. And to to your point, I'm sorry, just just to about just to go back to your question, I don't think that that there's any danger of these traditional restaurants really disappearing completely. So I feel like there will always
be some people to lead the way in that direction. But one thing that is interesting is if younger Japanese chefs maybe can go to local places and learn about the traditions of those regions and then learn how to incorporate some of those traditions into their cuisine, and then that might spark more interest even among local people to to keep those traditions alive so that they don't become like a museum piece. It's like more of an evolution or like, you know, a living. Yeah, like a living tradition. Yeah, I completely agree with you. Creativity doesn't necessarily mean adding foreign elements to something that's traditional or adding using new techniques that haven't existed before. It could mean digging into your own roots traditions and rediscovering something that used to exist and not anymore, for example.
And that's also creativity. Many of the top restaurants in Europe are actually are doing that. You know, there used to be a time where. And there are still reasons like that. But, you know, there was a trend of introducing foreign exotic elements to your cooking that was especially popular in places like Italy in the nineties, which I didn't find attractive at all coming from Japan. I didn't want to see sashimi like dish in Italy at a lesser quality that used to happen.
But not really anymore. I mean, many of the top chefs, you know, are focusing on their own traditions. For example, they would go back to recipes of the Roman times and resuscitate their recipes and make them relevant to the palate of the the modern consumers, which is definitely something that that's a direction that Japanese chefs can take. And this is overlapping with what you guys have already said. But, you know, rediscovering culinary traditions of various regions is definitely a way to go. My opinion. Hi, I'm Sachin Chaudhary from Tokyo. I'd like to know, like, how are the things happening in a vegan tourism or like, kind of whisky tourism and these kind of things? Because in Japan, like when we go to the countryside, normally it's very difficult to find like vegan restaurants and like the tourism, like now it's going to be a boom industry.
So like when we want to go to like countryside and like lots of tourism, like even from India, like 40% of population is vegetarian. So they normally go to U.S., Europe and other places because they get normally vegan food. So like, how are the things like popping up in like Japan for like vegan or like plant based or like these kind of things? Because still, like myself in Japan, I don't get good soya meat in Japan. So yeah, so like, how is that's
happening like in Japan? Thanks for asking a question that's very relevant for Chef Keiko Aquino. Yeah, that's true. I was being a big gun for seven years and it's back to Japan. It's so hard to find a good quality of beef and vegetarian restaurant. And talking about the restaurant we, we sub for the basic vegetarian option. But that's so hard because it's I
think it's also it's as a Japanese we don't have much being vegetarian so I mean as a Japanese we eat everything. I mean you know, eat meat. So we have to fast. It's understand it's to what is vegetarian, what is being a needs because it depends on your nationality or region also different than big. And so I think educate quite important to especially our local area to this what is the other country to want to or what's the custom is there. So yeah it's it takes time but it's
yeah, that's true. We need it. That's kind of stuff. Yeah. You were just in Austria to collaborate with was a vegan restaurant. Oh, no. Or the plant based? Yeah. It's not that not collaborate, but it's kind of. Yeah. Yeah. So it's interesting because there's quite use and lots of different techniques and to use the fermentation stuff. Yeah, I think it's kind of we should do kind of incorporate some to other overseas chefs to more encourage each other to share their knowledge.
Sharing of the knowledge is important. And again, this goes back a little bit to what I was saying before about how there needs to be a better understanding of the of the markets that you're trying to reach. And of course, that takes a lot of effort and that's not something people always say.
They don't have time, but it's so important. Yeah. When you see this mismatch, it's it's painful, actually. This is how, in my opinion, and also the question that somebody said, you know, the Uber is, you know, useful for the kind of improved accessible access to the, you know, or the restaurants in rural areas especially. So or the I think, you know, the cable industries are terrible, especially in rural areas. Almost nobody but the still cable industry is there.
So this is a kind of problem. But they put it on the show after, you know, the how. It is good. You know, we apply the uber industry into the rural and then try to regulate fleets. So the ridesharing sharing? Yes. Yes. How can it be done? Yeah, it's a very good question. I was working at rural government,
right. And I'm doing a project or ridesharing. Also, if you live in Tokyo, you can easily find a taxi or everywhere. But in the local area there is very hard to find out a taxi. That's why this is a point in the same discussion is totally on how to say nonsense from Tokyo.
And they are literally. And that's why government Japan's government should recognize the difference between Tokyo and rural. This is the first step to regulate this in this regulation. These are to how to say to party. Tirupati is talking about the breaking one. So thank you. I guess the time is up.
Time for any other questions? No. Okay. Okay. Thanks very much for participating in our session. I hope this was of interest to you and thank you all the panelists for participating and contributing your inputs. Thanks very much.