Japan Mulls Training Visas for Foreign Chefs

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Government marketing strategy includes exporting food culture
Wikimedia/David Monniaux
The Japanese government is considering a new visa category for people who want to study Japanese cuisine.

Japanese food is popular around the world, but Japan thinks it could be doing even better. As part of an effort to promote Japanese food culture abroad, the Justice Ministry has proposed a visa category specifically designed for chefs looking to study Japanese food.

According to the Mainichi Shinbun, "Opening the way for foreign chefs to train in Japan is another major part of the government’s efforts to promote the introduction of Japanese food abroad."

The new visa category would allow foreign chefs to undertake two-year training programs at Japanese restaurants and return to their home countries as "Japanese food evangelists." Food culture is one of the pillars of the government’s "Cool Japan" marketing strategy, which involves exporting cultural products like anime.

There are already approximately 55,000 Japanese restaurants outside Japan, and most of those are run by non-Japanese. The food produced in them can vary wildly in terms of authenticity, and the Justice Ministry believes that sending out a corps of highly trained experts in Japanese cuisine could help Japanese food become even more popular abroad. 

The government already gives working visas to specialists in other cuisines, but there is not currently a visa program for chefs who want to train in Japanese cuisine. The Justice Ministry has already proposed the new visa category, and a more detailed list of requirements is expected by the end of the year.

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