top of page
  • nycrunnerss

WIT Life #19: Michelin Phenomenon

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken, 2000-03).  Recently she’s been watching the news in Japanese and sharing some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

The famous French Michelin guide finally made its way to Tokyo last spring with a 2008 edition, and the 2009 edition came out last November. A news feature called “Michelin Phenomenon” examined how the Japanese are viewing this take on their culinary culture.

Japan’s gourmet guide with the most history is “Tokyo Ii Mise Umai Mise” (Tokyo’s Good and Delicious Restaurants), started in 1967. Written on the cover of a recent issue was the quote, “The French just don’t understand.” When the editor was asked about this assertion, he claimed, “What French and Japanese look for is different. For them the atmosphere of a restaurant is important, whereas for us it’s all about the taste.”

A new guide with a Japanese publisher came out in reaction to the Michelin guide. Its editor felt that with only a year or two of experience in Japan, it would be impossible for the French to properly judge restaurants and that their criteria were unclear. In his guide, he put this hypothesis to the test by going to all of the places that Michelin had reviewed and reevaluating them, sometimes giving no star to ones that had originally received three!

Next an average Michelin reader, a 31-year old real estate businesswoman, was profiled. She had visited about 1/3 of the restaurants with three stars, and many more of the ones with lower ratings. She found that the Michelin guide was very useful for when she took customers out and wanted to impress them. Next they interviewed a woman working in online production who primarily uses Michelin for lunch outings. She said it had a certain cache that other guides didn’t, and that she got as excited dressing up to visit its picks as she would about going to the opera.

One food critic offered that Michelin’s status is likely a large reason for its popularity in Japan. The Japanese defer to Europe and its culinary traditions, and this is part of Michelin’s authority and appeal. Another critic said it might just be as simple as the fact that Japanese liked rankings and that Michelin was another way to satisfy this craving.

The head of Michelin was asked why no yakitori or yakiniku restaurants had been selected. Arguably both of these are an essential part of Japanese cuisine, but he claimed that although there were many excellent restaurants in these categories, none of them had made the cut. He was also asked whether he thought it was appropriate for foreigners to be evaluating Japanese food, and he threw this question back at the interviewer by asking if he had ever eaten French cuisine. When he responded yes and that he loved it, the Michelin head said there was no reason he wouldn’t be qualified to review French food.

Only time will tell whether this import continues to enthrall its readers or if domestic guides will reclaim their ascendency.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

WIT Life #222: Japan's Global Leadership

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here

WIT Life #179: Japan in Transition, Yet Again

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here s

WIT Life #141: 今年の漢字

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here s

Comentarios


bottom of page