Culinary Niche Boosts Tourism to Japan

Japanese cuisine became the number one motivation for traveling to Japan among the Americans, according to the annual survey on foreign visitors to Japan in 2009. This is the first time that “culinary” is ranked as the number one in the annual survey among those who stayed for between 2 to 30 days in Japan. The survey was conducted at their departure at Japan’s major ports and airports by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

The voters for Japanese Cuisine also voted following dishes as what they really enjoyed during their stay: Sushi (50%), sashimi and tempura (17.8%), ramen noodle soup (9.6%), and udon noodle (7.5%). These breakdowns show that more varieties of Japanese food are becoming popular among Americans to the level that Japanese food attracts many travelers to Japan as a leisure destination.

“Culinary” had been in the top 5 travel purposes in the previous years: the 3rd place in 2007 and the 2nd place in 2008. However, with 70.7%, “culinary” significantly outnumbered the previous number 1 category “visiting historic landmarks.” This year’s result strongly reflects the soaring popularity of Japanese cuisine in the United States. Other categories that follow “culinary” is: “visiting historic landmarks” (59.5%), “shopping” (49.6%), “local life, local experience” (47.2%), and “natural beauty, scenery” (45.3%).

Americans are not the only people lured to Japan for authentic Japanese food: The result of the entire survey shows that the 58.5% of answers chose “culinary” as the number 1 purpose for the trip to Japan. The survey also proves that their interest goes beyond sushi and tempura, with wider varieties of Japanese food preferences from more local everyday food such as gyoza dumplings, onigiri (rice ball), noodles, yakitori (chicken skewers), and okonomiyaki (grilled concoction).

Japanese culinary popularity is obtaining a solid status of popular food worldwide, and Japan tourism is growing with gourmands who seek out authentic experience with food and culture. Culinary events in Japan will also enrich visitors’ experience even more: In Shizuoka, the country’s top green tea manufacturing region, Japan’s tea culture will be presented along with teas from all over the world. In the last weekend of October, at the World O-CHA Festival 2010 will bring large varieties of teas from all over the world and appreciate tea culture.

In November, Tokyo’s superior hotel the Peninsula Tokyo holds their exclusive culinary event “Cirque Culinaire.” The event offers time-limited superior dining experience with the finest labels of wines and dishes of the Peninsula chefs from different Peninsula Hotels and world’s renowned restaurants.

Japan’s winter is warmed up with fresh sake new for the season: Niigata, one of the cold sake brewery countries, celebrates local sake collections from multiple breweries in early March every year. The Niigata Sake no Jin event is growing every year, featuring very local and rare sake labels that are freshly exposed to the public for the season.

Japan National Tourism Organization,