Japan to use Italy's food expo to show how diverse its cuisine is - and how safe
When it comes to Japanese food, many might just think of sushi, tempura and ramen noodles, but anyone who's been to Japan knows the country's culinary culture has many more dimensions.
A world exposition opening in Italy from today to October 31 offers a great opportunity to experience the diversity of Japanese food. The Expo Milano 2015 is all about food, and some 150 organisations and countries, including Japan, are exhibiting their cultural ideas and technologies on the theme of "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life".
At a 1 sq km site in the northern Italian city of Milan, some 50 participants are opening their own pavilions, while others without their own booths are joining exhibition spaces with themes such as coffee, spice and chocolate.
At the Japan Pavilion about 60 municipalities and groups are showcasing their local food culture, introducing farming technologies and serving unique foods.
During the six-month event, visitors to the pavilion may enjoy Japanese matcha powdered green tea served in the traditional Urasenke tea ceremony style. They can also experience Buddhist cuisine from Fukui prefecture incentral Japan.
The city of Iga in Mie prefecture, western Japan, is introducing its food culture related to "ninja" - fighters trained in Japanese martial arts - while other local municipalities are showcasing regional offerings such as their own brand of rice.
Within the pavilion, a restaurant serving traditional, authentic Japanese cuisine as well as a more casual venue have been set up.
"Japanese cuisine has had a global boom in recent years ... We hope to introduce our deep and diverse food culture," says Toshio Kurakazu, deputy director in the farm ministry's project team for the expo.
Washoku traditional Japanese cuisine was added to Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.
The ministry hopes the world exhibition will become a magnet for more tourists toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and help promote exports of Japanese agricultural products, Kurakazu adds.
Fukushima prefecture, which was hit hard in 2011 by the earthquake-tsunami disaster and ensuing nuclear accident, is taking part in the expo. The period between October 11 and 14 will be a Fukushima week, where the prefecture, blessed with abundant natural resources, will introduce its food culture featuring seasonal ocean and mountain produce.
"Many people overseas have concerns about food products from Fukushima. We would like people to know about what we are doing to ensure the safety of Fukushima food," says a prefectural official.
The expo will also provide an opportunity to reflect on problems the world faces, such as food shortage, death and diseases linked to poor nutrition or too much food, and food waste.
For example, visitors can learn about Japan's technology to utilise euglena - a microscopic single-cell organism capable of photosynthesis - as food and for energy generation, and a cutting-edge method to reduce food waste, among other things.
Around 20 million people are expected to flock to the expo during the six months. Japan aims to attract 1.4 million visitors to its own pavilion.