Washoku – a declining tradition?Even though many aspects of the eating culture were still passed down to the next generation, the Japanese government, in particular the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, addressed the need to preserve washoku and the meaning behind each aspect of the dietary culture. The traditional food culture was reported to be on a decline amid changing household structures, consumer preferences, and economic trends. With nuclear family households at the center of the busy city life, the foodservice industry and store retailers selling ready-to-eat meals were benefitting from their popularity as a fast and flexible option to still the hunger.
Additionally, the augmentation of international trade amid advances in economic partnership agreements on agricultural produce is impacting consumer price developments in favor of wheat-based foods and meats. While the limited arable land and high access to marine fisheries and aquaculture in the surrounding ocean fostered the role of seafood in the traditional diet in the past, market liberalization of food-related segments lowered the barriers for wheat-based foods and meats to replace rice and fish on the dining tables. But not only has the consumption of staple food experienced changes in the last decades, but food trends as well were rising and falling with the influx of foreign influences.
Between food trends and peculiar specialtiesWashoku is commonly considered a healthy dietary culture characterized by the sparse use of oil and seasonings, and the variety of fermented food like soy sauce, miso, and fermented soybeans (nattō). Contrasting the traditional diet are fluctuating trends emerging in domestic and foreign markets, with media playing a major role in the spread of food-related information. It is no rarity that the latest food trends are picked up in Japanese TV programs, with variety shows, documentary-type programs, and even news programs touching on the fast-changing trends. Trending foods attracting consumer attention range from confectioneries filled with cream and other sweet treats to savory, deep-fried snacks.
Between nutritional balance and emerging trends, food services in Japan also offer specialties marked controversial in the international society like whale meat and live seafood. Live seafood refers to the consumption of marine products like fish, shrimp, and octopuses that are still alive and moving when served. While live seafood is not a habitually consumed dish, raw food is a popular preparation method in the form of sashimi, thinly sliced meat or fish. But even though food services are subjected to strict hygiene regulations, food poisoning incidents at restaurants are not uncommon compared to other preparing facilities, with animal products being the most common causative food.