JAPAN - While traditional Japanese cuisine is becoming more popular overseas, Japanese people are gradually moving away from traditional food and table manners, according to studies on lifestyle habits.
The trend was confirmed in a study by Tokyo Gas Co.'s Urban Life Research Institute, which conducted surveys on food habits on about 3,300 respondents in their 20s to 80s in the Tokyo metropolitan area in 1990 and 2011.
The study's results showed that in 2011, 65 per cent of respondents said they wanted to eat miso soup at least once a day, down from 77 per cent in 1990. In the 2011 survey, less than 50 per cent of respondents in their 20s said so.
Asked whether they mainly ate rice or bread for breakfast, 34 per cent said rice in the 2011 survey, compared to 44 per cent in 1990. The percentage of respondents who ate bread or cereal for breakfast rose to 40 per cent in 2011, compared to 35 per cent in 1990.
"Washoku, or traditional dietary culture, which includes how food is served and table manners, may be disappearing from Japanese tables," said Nobuko Iwamura, an official at Asatsu-DK Inc., an advertising firm that has been conducting studies on Japanese eating habits since 1998.
The studies covered families raising children with mothers born in 1960 and after. Participants were asked to keep track of their meals by taking pictures or keeping a diary for one week.
Traditionally in Japan, family members sit together to eat a meal consisting of rice as a staple, three dishes and a bowl of soup. However, the studies revealed that reality is far from this ideal.
For example, some respondents ate only snacks or cookies for breakfast, while others said they prepared dinners consisting primarily of carbohydrates, such as sandwiches and fried yakisoba noodles served together.
In other cases, aluminum foil was used instead of dishes, and some children could not use chopsticks properly. Instead of eating together, family members ate what they wanted and at different times.
In an effort to preserve traditional Japanese food culture, some schools and local communities have started promoting dietary education and encouraging people to eat locally produced food.
If "washoku" is designated as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage asset, it may provide a driving force for Japanese to reaffirm the charm of traditional food culture and hand it down to future generations.