Get That Paprika Out of My Maki

The International Herald-Tribune’s Asia-Pacific edition reports that Japanese officials plan to crack down on restaurants abroad that besmirch the Japanese name by selling “inauthentic” fare. A panel of food experts was appointed last week and charged with creating a certification system for sushi sellers and tempura emporia overseas, though it’s unclear at this point when—not to mention how—the government will start enforcing the new rules.

Lauren of the food blog In a Fancy Glass, who lives in Tokyo, calls the move “an act of true hypocrisy.” Why?

Because Japan is FULL of fake or Japanified Italian, French and American restaurants as well as any other cuisine you can name. Food “Adjusted” for Japanese taste.

Perhaps the Japanese government looks at these fake-o places as evidence of the decline of food culture, too: Last year it enacted the Basic Law on Shokuiku, which aims to spread “food education” (shokuiku) to the masses by calling on farmers, food purveyors, schools, workplaces, and parents to “induce people to develop greater appreciation for and understanding of their diets.” The law was enacted in response to food and health issues, including:

[A] lack of proper concern for food; an increase in irregular and nutritionally unbalanced meals; a rise in obesity and lifestyle-related diseases; an excessive desire for being slim especially among young females; outbreak of a series of incidents related to food safety; over-dependency on food from abroad; and, loss of traditional food culture in a globalization movement. Some might criticize that eating is such a personal thing that government shouldn’t regulate by a law. However, Japanese situation over food has already reached to a crisis point, and that a law had to be enacted in order to address these issues.

What do you think—is the new certification idea an important move to preserve the reputation of sushi, or just a way for the government to give a leg up to Japanese companies pimping soy sauce and nori? How important is it to let traditional cuisine evolve?

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