Japanese Food in the West: A Continuing Growth Story

In any major city in Japan, you can find Western cuisine of the same level and quality as in its homeland.  You will also find the most Michelin-star restaurants in Tokyo, and in international pizza-making contests, Japanese chefs continually rank among the top contestants.  In the past few years, it has also become popular among Japanese office women to enroll in wine education courses in their free time.

We could continue the list of facts to prove that Western food culture has become a part of Japanese people’s lives.  Many Japanese now understand as much about wine and European cuisine as Westerners themselves, and eat French, Italian, Spanish, American, or other Western food daily.  They make conscious choices when deciding what to eat and where to dine, and they make spaghetti or steak in their homes too.

Of course, this did not happen in a short period.  The learning curve was long.  At first, the Japanese created their localized versions of major European foods, such as omurice or wafu pasta with bonito flakes or mentaiko (spicy and salted pollock roe).  In the 1970s, so-called “one-coin” low-cost wine made its way to the masses.  This was followed by the growing popularity and success of Beaujolais Nouveau that was easy-to-drink and reasonably priced.  In the meantime, the economic boom was feeding the high-end spectrum of the market with top-class French wine.  After a while, the middle-price segment of the wine market got filled too, and today there is a wide selection of wines in every price range.  On the food front, the understanding of European cuisines and ingredients has also led to many successful fusion restaurants.  Matching wine with sushi or another Japanese dish is not unique anymore.

During the same time, sushi or wagyu have served as pioneers to make Japanese food known in Western markets.  Japanese whiskey and ramen also became very popular in the past years.  Most recently, you can see even yuzu or wasabi in the menus of many local restaurants in Europe.

At Too International, we believe that this is only the beginning and that Japanese and—more broadly—Asian food culture will continue to grow in Western countries.  It took about 50–60 years for Western food culture to come to Asia.  Today we are in a more globalized world with faster information flow and distribution systems, but it may take another 15-20 years for Asian food to establish a full presence in the West.

The better understanding of different food cultures and ingredients will create more choices.  More choices mean more diversity and more adaptability to local and personal needs.  We believe that the need for diversity is going to continue, and Asian ingredients, cuisine, drinks, and cooking techniques will continue to grow together.  It is our goal to make this mission easier for those pioneers who share our beliefs described above. 

We are looking forward to working together with makers, distributors, promoters and many others to create a more diversified and colorful global food and beverage scene.