• Feature

Nara Prefecture will Host the 7th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism in December 2022

  • delicious Japan
  • May 2022
  • Vol. 14
Since 2015, the World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, organized by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has taken place in selected cities around the world. This year’s Forum, the seventh, is to take place in Nara Prefecture over three days, December 13-15. We talked to the MICE Promotion Office, Tourism Bureau, NARA Prefectural Government, which is in charge of promoting the Forum.
Why was Nara Prefecture selected, and what is the significance of the event?

Nara Prefecture regards enhancing the appeal of food as a vital element in raising the prefecture’s tourism potential. We are working hard to promote gastronomy tourism, with measures such as establishing the NARA Agriculture and Food International College (NAFIC) and publicizing auberges in the prefecture. Nara also has a UNWTO regional office, which it has worked with in the past to organize symposiums on gastronomy tourism. The main reason for the Nara’s selection is its enthusiastic support of UNWTO activities.
Other than providing opportunities to dine in Nara, we see the World Forum as an opportunity to make the most of the prefecture’s historic, cultural, scenic, and other characteristics, to strongly publicize content for domestic and overseas consumption which could only come from “Nara, the cradle of Japanese culture”. We also want to use the event to dispel the image written in the essay “Nara” by Naoya Shiga, which said “nothing tastes good in Nara”.

What is your definition of gastronomy tourism, and what goals is Nara Prefecture aiming for?

The Japan Tourism Agency defines gastronomy tourism as “tourism intended to enjoy foods created from ingredients grown from the land and climate of the place, and nurtured by its customs, traditions, history, and other elements, and to encounter the local culture”. Nara Prefecture positions it in the same way and promotes it accordingly.
Many foods are nurtured by the cultural and historic background that springs from the region, so we believe promoting gastronomy tourism will contribute to sustainable regional development that promotes the area and carries on the traditional culture of local society.

What is Nara Prefecture’s implementation plan to that end?

TIn July 2021, Nara Prefecture adopted the “Comprehensive Strategy for Tourism in Nara Prefecture”, which sets “Food Promotion” as one of the pillars for its implementation. The promotion of gastronomy tourism is a key element of that pilar.
The “Nara New Capital Building Strategy 2022” contains “Food Promotion” and “Promotion of Ordinances to Stimulate Abundant Food and Agriculture in Nara Prefecture”. In these articles, the Strategy raises the promotion of food and agriculture in Nara Prefecture, including gastronomy tourism, as a key measure.

What are the attractions and characteristics of food in Nara?

Washoku has been inscribed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage, and it is in the spotlight around the world. We see the fact that Nara is the cradle of Japan’s culinary culture as its greatest advantage in publicizing it to the world. For example, if you trace back to the origins of the culinary culture that has been passed down to modern Japan, such as tea, sake, udon and somen noodles, and manju buns, you find that much of it has connections with Nara.

What is Nara’s tourist attraction?

Nara Prefecture contains three pieces of cultural heritage that are on the UNESCO world heritage list. Nara is the site of Japan’s first capital, and the first place where Buddhism took root here. There are historic buildings and cultural assets that have been handed down since the Asuka and Nara eras (592-794CE), and the old rural vistas and town houses which form Japan’s original scenery are still preserved, and can be seen all over Nara Prefecture.

How does Nara plan to integrate gastronomy with tourism?

Food is one of the great pleasures for travelers. That makes gastronomy an important element within tourism. Local foods, ingredients, alcoholic drinks, and the like are a way for travelers to encounter the customs, traditions, and history of the place, raising the added value of their trip. We believe the involvement of local producers in tourism will lead to revitalization of local economies.

Are there any countries or regions which are models for Nara, or examples which provide hints?

We gather that San Sebastian in Spain and Lima in Peru, which are previous hosts of the World Forum, succeeded because their local chefs decided to use food to attract people, and put that resolution into action.
Nara Prefecture is negotiating a partnership agreement with the aforementioned NAFIC, and with the Basque Culinary Center, a culinary school in San Sebastian, as a way to greatly advance gastronomy tourism.
Finally, we urge people to come to Nara and enjoy their fill of its foods and drinks with all their senses, as they encounter Nara’s history and culture and make wonderful memories.

5th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism

©World Tourism Organization(UNWTO)