Japanese cuisine under attack from Western food; chefs fight back with school programs

abc.net.au: by Mathew Carney —

Japan has already seen steep increases in diet-related diseases such as diabetes. “People take in too much fat with Western foods and get diseases,” Dr Eguchi said.

Japanese food is acclaimed around the world but at home the national cuisine is under serious threat. Japanese youth are now eating more Western food but the great chefs of Japan are fighting back and introducing school programs to get kids to eat Japanese again. Japanese food is known for its delicate intricacy. It is seen as an art form by many and last year was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

AUDIO 3:04Japan exhorts its youth: Miso, dashi and sushi – not pasta, curry and burgers

Sushi on a plateAM

Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than Paris and London combined and Master Chef Yoshihiro Murata runs three of them.

“We cook with a strong message. The joy of the seasons, the richness of a region or the pleasure to live and of course it has to be delicious,” Mr Murata said.

Chef Murata is known for his elaborate and small 12-course meals. But he said his real passion these days is to make simple, traditional food and get kids to eat it.

Japanese cuisine, he claims, is under attack.

“We have to stop the trend of eating Western food. If we don’t, Japanese cuisine will become extinct and our culture will die,” he said.

Changing tastes among Japan’s youth

Japanese kids are now eating more Western food. Purchases of rice and miso are down to almost half of what they were 25 years ago.

At the same time, sales of cheese are up 70 per cent and bread 15 per cent.

The favourite food now is pasta, curry and rice, and hamburgers.

A selection on traditional Japanese food

PHOTO Japanese food is known for its delicate intricacy.

ABC NEWS

“I like hamburger steak because it is juicy and delicious,” is a typical response from Japanese school children.

But Chef Murata and others are fighting back and through the Japanese Culinary Academy and local governments they are implementing programs that reintroduce Japanese food to Japanese children.

Sanya Elementary School in Tokyo is one of the first to take up the challenge.

Less than half of the students there eat Japanese but now they are provided with a full Japanese lunch of rice, fish and vegetables.

The children also have classes where they learn about the basics of Japanese cuisine; dashi or fish stock and miso soup.

School nutritionist Toshiyuki Eguchi said they want the kids to appreciate the taste, but they also want to keep them healthy.

Japan has already seen steep increases in diet-related diseases such as diabetes.

“People take in too much fat with Western foods and get diseases,” Dr Eguchi said.

“Japanese food is low in fats so obesity rates are lower compared to Western countries.

“Japanese people are the longest living in the world and we want to keep it that way.”

Chef Murata and his colleagues say it will take a generation to stop the shift to Western food and save the tradition and health of the nation.

Origional Post here:  http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-16/japanese-cuisine-under-attack-from-western-food/5816510

Categories: Asia, Food, Health, Japan

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