SOME say love is the universal language, but we think that food is the best way to communicate. Across borders, language barriers, political and economic hardship and even relationship conundrums, food can be the healer, the bringer-together of enemies, and alliances.
Food is also a sure way to spark an interest in another country’s culture without having to delve deep into the history books or knowing the language.
Japan Tourism, the country’s national tourism organization, understands this loud and clear and has recently launched a culinary-based tourism campaign to encourage US tourists to visit the country.
The Discover Japan Recipe Campaign has teamed up with Dale Talde – a Filipino-American celebrity chef – to entice travelers to explore Japan’s cities through food and break down language-barrier anxieties that many travelers face.
Although Western cultures are introduced to Asian cultures through local restaurants serving golden noodle ramen and sushi, as well as shops selling pop-culture characters like Hello Kitty, many people would still avoid visiting the cultures they came from due to fear they’ll spend the whole time struggling to communicate.
The campaign hopes to abolish these fears through a series of short videos where Talde cooks with traditional Japanese ingredients. Viewers are then encouraged to vote for their favorite dish – with one lucky voter winning the prize of a round trip to Japan.
While Japan already attracts a substantial average of 1.2 million US travelers per year since 2016, it is still struggling to regain its status as an attractive tourist destination after the 2011 earthquake that killed nearly 16,000 people and led to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
But things are looking up. Between April to July of this year, tourist numbers jumped up 21.1 percent compared with the same three month period in 2016, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. And this new cooking campaign hopes to add to the already healthy US$33 billion that the tourism industry pulls in.
What does Japan’s tourism future look like?
“Japan was once very conservative and isolated because we are an island, but that’s been changing,” Ken Iwata, executive director of the tourism board’s New York office told Skift.
Since Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abē prioritized tourism as a key area of focus for the government, the country and its surrounding islands that make up some of Japan’s most stunning prefectures, have become far more accessible.
Technology is widely aiding the appeal to tourists, as many perceive Japan to be a leader in innovative tech. Some of this artificial intelligence is being used to create apps that help to quickly translate languages.
As well as technological advances pulling in tourists, in 2020 the island can look forward to hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will create a surge in tourism for the countries capital, and hopefully for other regions also.