Nara whips up a stronger focus on food tourism

Japan’s Nara prefecture is stepping up its food and drink-related offerings ahead of hosting the 7th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy in June 2022.

The event is expected to be a catalyst in the development of central Kansai’s gourmet tourism, and local stakeholders are working hard to ensure the prefecture is maximising the opportunity to showcase itself to the world.

The International Symposium on Gastronomy Tourism 2022 in January spurred Nara’s intensified food tourism push

Efforts include the development or expansion of authentic, traditional and innovative culinary experiences, as well as activities such as visiting local producers, participating in food festivals, and attending cooking classes.

Gurutto Auberge, which literally means travel around auberges, is an initiative to encourage visitors to stay in a French-style auberge – a restaurant focused on food but which also has accommodation. It now offers 12 facilities.

Yoshiaki Tanaka, assistant director of MICE promotion at Nara Prefectural Government, said the initiative aims “to promote the creation of local liveliness through food, the development of sightseeing tours, and the utilisation of local agricultural products”.

A new booklet, Gastronomique Promenade, introduces 47 places for gourmands in Nara’s Yamanobe-no-Michi area, such as restaurants, souvenir shops and places offering food and drink experiences.

The developments build on Nara’s successful hosting of the International Symposium on Gastronomy Tourism 2022 in January, where almost 400 people attended a hybrid event on the theme of realising sustainable regional tourism using “food x comfort x travel”.

Businesses are tapping increased demand domestically for the area’s unique food and drink, particularly sake and local ingredients.

As the heart of ancient Japan, Nara has long been renowned for sake. Now, breweries are inviting visitors for culinary experiences as well as sake tours and tastings.

Namakura Sake has private rooms where seasonal dishes and sake from across Nara are served.

At JW Marriott Hotel Nara, which opened in spring 2020, ingredients from Nara are used with local and international techniques to create fusion cuisine at Silk Road Dining.

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