Japan mulls adding culinary masters to list of 'living national treasures' to increase tourism, exports
Japan Times -- Jan 04
The government is considering designating highly skilled masters of Japanese cuisine and sake brewing as “living national treasures,” a title currently limited to performers and experts skilled in traditional arts and crafts, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The Cultural Affairs Agency also plans to count local cuisines as “intangible cultural assets.”

By elevating culinary artisans and local cuisines, the government hopes to further attract foreign interest in Japan, boosting tourism and food exports.

The agency will set up a unit specialized in Japanese food culture in April, and start surveying its food and drink landscape for potential nominees among food and drink artisans of high skill, the sources said.

However, the prestigious designations may take several years to develop because the agency will have to devise its criteria while facing the challenge of determining how to evaluate the complexities of the food world.

Once chosen, the masters will receive government subsidies to help develop their skills further and build up successors.

The title of living national treasure, based on a 1950 law with a mandate to protect food culture, solely comprises performers such as Kabuki and Noh actors, and highly skilled craftsmen such as ceramics artists and goldsmiths. It is extremely difficult to win the designation and only 115 exist.

The government was spurred to consider adding culinary masters to the prestigious list when washoku, Japan’s traditional food culture, was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2013.

News source: Japan Times
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