The myth of washoku: a twisted discourse on the “uniqueness” of national food heritages

Ryo Kohsaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In 2013, Japan and Korea celebrated their first food culture registrations with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This paper first reviews the overall situation regarding washoku. Then, the washoku concept is analyzed and we argue that the idea is ambiguous. The washoku concept is contested and not necessarily clearly defined, but certain characteristics exist. The “uniqueness” is emphasized in the UNESCO registration while the reasoning or storyline for applications, such as relationships to nature, traditional preparations, community cohesion are “common” with other applications. The context of registration is frequently misinterpreted, and washoku has certain elements that are responsive to changes, despite its authentic and unchanged popular image. The ambiguity has both positive and negative aspects. It functions as a framework to enable groups with different interests or interpretations to participate in the process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Ethnic Foods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jun


  • discourse
  • intangible cultural heritage of humanity
  • registration
  • washoku

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Anthropology


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