Sushi is the first thing that people bring up when Japanese food comes to the discussion. While sushi is part of traditional Japanese cuisine, things are a bit more complicated than this. Yes, we have a good sense of what this cuisine is. We know it well that it’s healthier and more balanced than most western countries’ cuisine. But until you visit Japan or an authentic Japanese restaurant, you might overlook many specificities of this particular culinary culture. But like any other traditional cuisine in the globalization context, it changes dramatically as time passes, while preserving its most powerful traits and characteristics.
Japanese people seemed to love fish
Traditionally, the Japanese culture relied on fish to meet the protein needs in their dietary choices. Bluefin tuna was hauled and fished at a large scale in Japan and the consumption rates steadily increased over the 1980-2005 time period. However, after relying on fish and rice as their main dietary choices for so long, Japan’s appetite for meat increased. While chain restaurants like McDonald’s were introduced in the country, an appetite for healthy and intricately prepared food was still present.
A trend that can be easily observed in the country’s dietary choices is a higher affinity for beef. These trends can be observed in domestic production rates in the cattle and fishery industry.
Beef has come to successfully fill the need for a different type of protein in Japan. Fusion and experimental cuisine trends have emerged. Now, we can find in Japan some of the most intricate resorts and restaurants when it comes to innovative ways of approaching food.
A shift in generational tastes
The generational gap is noticeable in Japan like it is in any other parts of the world. The older generations recall their reliance on fish when it comes to meeting their nutritional needs. However, as globalization began to make itself known in Japan and open imports and exports increased in rates, Japanese chefs have now the opportunity to diversify, integrate new ingredients in their recipes and create a new eating trend (besides the fast-food affinity that young people seem to have all around the world).
Sushi, the world-renowned Japanese staple is now more contemporary than ever, has no smell or taste of fish and is increasingly consumed even by fairly young children. Younger generations seem to prefer eating beef, however.
But in spite of the fact that Japanese cuisine is experiencing a shift in main ingredients and preparation methods, the western world becomes more receptive to Asian and Japanese recipes. This is one of the main reasons why fish imports have increased over the past decades in the US.
Nonetheless, witnessing the evolution of the cuisine in both sides of the paradigm, west and east, will be interesting. A continuous exchange of ingredients and methods will be adopted by both sides and the markets will have to adapt to meet consumer’s need for new and innovative products.