UNESCO designates ‘washoku’ intangible cultural heritage asset

December 05, 2013

By YUSUKE FUJII/ Staff Writer

BAKU, Azerbaijan--UNESCO formally decided to add traditional Japanese “washoku” cuisine to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list at a meeting of its Intergovernmental Committee here Dec. 4.

The addition of washoku is Japan’s 22nd intangible cultural heritage tradition recognized by the world body. Also on UNESCO’s list are Noh and Kabuki theater.

The idea to seek recognition of traditional Japanese cuisine was first proposed by chefs and connoisseurs in Kyoto who feared Japan’s dietary traditions would not be passed on to future generations if they failed to act.

Backers touted washoku for its fresh ingredients and its contribution to well-balanced healthy eating as reasons it should be added to the cultural organization's list.

Only French, Mediterranean, Turkish and Mexican food cultures are currently recognized by the U.N. body.

Of Japan’s 21 traditions that were already on the UNESCO list, all have also been designated by the government as important cultural assets.

And though washoku has not yet received official recognition, the government decided to recommend it for designation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in part, to restore Japan’s agricultural and seafood reputation that it believes was damaged by the Fukushima nuclear disaster that unfolded in March 2011.

UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list covers traditional forms of art and entertainment, social customs and traditional crafts, which represent cultural diversity and human creativity.

As of last year, a total of 257 traditions were designated as intangible cultural heritage assets.

The Japanese government has submitted “washi,” traditional Japanese hand-made paper, for consideration next year.

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AJW's JAPANESE HOME COOKING section is available at http://ajw.asahi.com/tag/JAPANESE%20HOME%20COOKING.

By YUSUKE FUJII/ Staff Writer
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Heihachi Sonobe, the head of the Kyo-Ryori Association, hangs a congratulation lantern Dec. 5 in Kyoto, after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided to list Japanese traditional “washoku” cuisine as an intangible cultural heritage asset. (Noboru Tomura)

Heihachi Sonobe, the head of the Kyo-Ryori Association, hangs a congratulation lantern Dec. 5 in Kyoto, after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided to list Japanese traditional “washoku” cuisine as an intangible cultural heritage asset. (Noboru Tomura)

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  • Heihachi Sonobe, the head of the Kyo-Ryori Association, hangs a congratulation lantern Dec. 5 in Kyoto, after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided to list Japanese traditional “washoku” cuisine as an intangible cultural heritage asset. (Noboru Tomura)
  • Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Masanori Aoyagi, right foreground, and Kenjiro Monji, Japanese ambassador to UNESCO, left foreground, celebrate the inclusion of "washoku" on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list Dec. 4 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Yusuke Fujii)
  • The Asahi Shimbun
  • The Asahi Shimbun

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