Japan is famous for its variety of culinary delights such as sushi, sashimi, ramen or Gyoza as well as Sake and Shocho. Although traditional Japanese culinary culture remains a strong part of the national identity, Japanese consumers enjoy a more diverse and international range of food products. Among them, Italian Food (or Itameshi) has been topping the popularity charts in Japan for decades. The two cuisines share a lot of common elements, notably an emphasis on seasonality and simplicity.
Italian food in Japan: a growing market
Spaghetti has been on the menus of cafes in Japan since the 1920s. Italian tomato sauce was popularized the first Italian-American GIs during the occupation, but a wider acquaintance with Italian food had to wait until the 1990s, when French food became less popular among the European elite, which meant the rise in popularity of Italian food.
Nowadays, you can find Italian trattorias all over the country. From fine dining to casual family eateries, you will find Italian food of every kind. Over the years, chefs in Japan have learned to master traditional Italian cooking and have successfully integrated local ingredients into traditional Italian dishes. Wine is often paired with the food. Italian wine has a reputation for being low cost and high quality. The wine market is still very dependent on imports; around 70% of the bottled wine consumed comes from overseas. This makes Japan the second largest wine importer in Asia Pacific, and Italy is the leading supplier. Even though the market is competitive, there is still a lot room for growth.
The Japanese have a lot of in-depth knowledge about Italy’s regional cuisines. And it’s not just the small joints or pizzerias that captivate Japanese people, but it’s also the famous restaurants in Tokyo that prove that the quality of Italian food found in Japan can compete with what you’d find in Italy.