Wow, I’ve just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that gave a fantastic summary of all the great things about Japan and Japanese culture, and now I really want to visit the place!
It discusses how the Japanese economy, style and culture have adapted to the global recession of the last few decades, having previously enjoyed a vigorous economy in the boom-years of the 80’s. Back before this current depression in the global economy, Japanese exports were in massive demand, and the country would import the very best from around the world, whether it was a top French chef or Italian fashion designers.
Now though, the Japanese have taken a different route, they have ventured out, taken the best of what the world has to offer, studied how to do it in the greatest possible way, and brought it home. Japanese chefs can now make almost every food imaginable, from probably almost any place in the world you can imagine, and they do what they do to the highest possible standards.
The article highlighted the great cuisine that Japan boasts, focusing primarily on small restaurants that provided a fantastic level of service that was both intimate and exemplary.
One only needs to look at the sheer number of Japanese restaurants that have been given Michelin Stars, writer Tom Downey says,
“Though many Japanese foodies and critics deride the Michelin Guide for a perceived ignorance of traditional Japanese food culture, the publication of the first Red Guide to Tokyo just four years ago signalled a tectonic shift in the international culinary scene. In the latest guide, 247 of Tokyo’s restaurants have stars—almost four times the number in Paris, and more than the total number in London, New York City and Paris, pointing to the spectacular appeal of this city to foreign palates. (And it’s not just Tokyo: The Kansai region also has more starred restaurants than those foreign cities combined.)”
There are 16 restaurants with 3 Michelin Stars, the highest accolade that can be awarded, whereas there are only 15, 3-star restaurants in Europe’s main cities. One of these is the contemporary French cuisine restaurant Quintessence, which the author of the article visited and reviewed during his stay in Japan. He explains that the restaurant provides no menus just a brief explanation from Japanese chef Shuzo Kishida explaining that he will choose what people eat. The maître d’ does the majority of the work in the restaurant himself, primarily because he wants to see for himself exactly how each customer responds to the dishes they try.
This is a very interesting technique and quite clearly shows just how seriously they take their professions in Japan!
Tom Downey also explores the success of certain Japanese fashion designers, who have taken what are traditional American fashion products and perfected them to such a high standard that they are now being exported back to America and selling for what works out at hundreds of dollars.
He visits the booming bar district which boasts various specialist establishments, from the freshest, fruitiest, cocktails to splendid malt whiskey and bourbon bars! As well as going to some of Japan’s top hotels, to see hospitality at its very best – Japanese style!
The writer speaks about going into a coffee bar and being unable to get an espresso, because the owner of the shop stopped them from being served early in the day. He did this because he believed the power spike that happened in the evening meant that he could not get the optimum voltage necessary to create the perfect espresso. Now that really is a perfectionist at work!!!
To conclude, Downey says:
“The Japanese, animated by the principles of perfection, specialization, craft and obsession that they have long brought to their own culture, have applied the same standards to Basque cuisine, Rhum Agricole cocktails, American-style outerwear, and almost everything else wondrous and obscure from the rest of the world.
And while the Japanese have done an admirable job of exporting their native cuisine and culture, perhaps the next challenge for their flagging economy is to learn to export everything they do best. While some of these ventures do well financially, others just seem to hang on. Japan’s superior cocktails, cuisine, clothes and hospitality deserve to catch on globally, but who knows if they will even continue to last in Japan. Which is precisely why this is the moment to visit.”
To read the full review go to The Wall Street Journal