The Japanese restaurant authentifiers start moving

Early last year, a movement to set up an authentification program for Japanese restaurant was proposed, to mixed reactions. Now it seems the people behind it are getting going: the inspectors are already in Bangkok, Shanghai and Taipei, and this year they'll be invading, er researching London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris.

Now according to this Times UK article they will be inspecting the 'provenance of ingredients'. Based on this argument, the Times looked at the ingredients some UK chains use and found them to be fairly authentic. Now, I do hope that this provenance thing will not be a major factor in weighing the authenticity or worth of sushi restaurants. Just because a rice is grown in California or Arkansas does not make it bad. In fact, rice from Japan that is exported is prohibitively expensive, and not economically feasible for most establishments unless they are of the Nobu level of expense-account pricing. Similarly, soy sauce can be made outside of Japan to suit Japanese tastes too (as Kikkoman does).

I really hope they just do a lot of tasting. I don't care if Yo! Sushi uses a lot of Japanese ingredients, they are still mediocre to bad. (Yep I gave them yet another try since that previous post and they still suck. I know that I should not expect much from a conveyor-belt-sushi place in the first place but it bugs me how so many people seem to think this place is somehow 'authentic'. I want to slap these people around with a wet flounder. Grr.) Some cities will be disappointed by the results I'm sure...I'm rather thinking of Paris (not that I've tried every single sushi restaurant in Paris, but the ones I've tried have If they make it around to Zürich...hmm. But above all, it's about taste, ladies and gentlemen, taste.

Incidentally, if you are a sushi fan and traveller, I hope you know about this oldie but goodie: The Sushi World Guide - A Guide to Japanese restaurants outside Japan. This site has been around for eons in interweb terms, as the old school styling of the site shows. It's a treasure trove of restaurant listings, and the reviews are really pretty spot on.

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I'd rather have my Japanese yummies (or any of the "ethnic" foods I like, really) made from local ingredients anyway if they can be. That means they're fresher, have less food miles, etc.

So they've finally got around to this then? Seems like a very nice job! Japanese tax payers must be thrilled to be funding these civil servants! I have some mixed feelings about the scheme, and agree that taste is more important than ingredients' provenance (Even if Wagamama uses authentic miso, their "miso ramen" is authentic only to Wagamama - and I agree that the sushi at Yo-sushi is rather horrid, and the stuff labelled Yo-sushi in supermarkets tastes even more like cardboard)

The main reason my feelings are ambivalent is that the scheme is so one sided. I had something called "Paella Valencia" in Business class on ANA airlines once. I was outraged! the stuff was vile and bore no semblance to a paella. And this was the time when news of the Japanese Authentication Scheme was first being published (late 2005). Yet Tokyo actually is the place to go if you want one of the world's best paellas (second prize winner in a Valencian competition - and for the main section, not some token best of the rest category - was the Ginza Espero
Another contradiction is Makoto Onishi from Japanese chain Salvatore Cuomo has repeatedly won world's best pizza maker in Naples yet most Italians would balk at calling some of the bizarre creations available elsewhere pizza at all.

Seems a bit rich to impose and insist on your own food standards when your own country is bastardising the culinary traditions of other nations. There are some odd anomalies in Japan though - I doubt the citizens of Sasebo would care too much if America decided to declare their famous hamburgers unauthentic.

I will be complaining to the Japanese Embassy if Yo-sushi gets a certificate of authentication!

got the date wrong - I meant (late 2006)

I'm not sure I quite get your point Loretta (except for the government officials time thing...) I don't think they are claiming to know about the authenticity of food other than Japanese. I guess a Spanish group could get together to authentificate Spanish food...or Italian food...etc.

I have ambivalent feelings about the whole authentification thing, but on the other hand there is an awful lot of bad sushi out there (and other Japanese food, but especially sushi). And sushi's popularity has been explosive in the last few years, which means there's a lot of McSushi out there. So I do sort of see the point of it too.

Here in the western United States, after World War II there were a lot of Japanese Americans who had lost their businesses due to the concentration camps. So, the people who were so inclined opened restaurants based on what they knew how to cook......which was Japanese food. Anyway, these hard working citizens made enough money cooking good food to send their children to college, and the college educated children now have better things to do than own restaurants, which has resulted in our local Japanese restaurants one by one being sold to gai-jin who attempt to cook Japanese food, but, it just isn't the same.

Now we have Japanese soul food without the soul. That is one reason I am cooking more and more Japanese food at home. Not to mention that most Americans think only of sushi when then think of Japanese food, and so that's what we get more and more. I say, go for it, Japanese Authenification Inspectors!