Research continuum

Interdiscip Res

Healthy Japanese Cuisine for the World Evaluation of the Japanese diet as a potential model for human health.

In June 2014, we applied for a competitive research funding ‘Integration research for agriculture and interdisciplinary fields’ of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and were selected as a core of excellence project for our evaluation of the Japanese diet. In August, our project started under the title “A multifaceted investigation of possible contributions of Japanese diet to world health”.

Traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, was just added to the world’s intangible heritage list in December 2013. Now is a good time to promote a better international understanding of Japanese eating habits, and reevaluate the strengths of these practices. Japanese food has long been considered to be healthy, but scientific evidence is surprisingly limited. The core characteristics of the Japanese diet are not really fully defined, both generally and in an academic context. Due to uncertainty surrounding its basic characteristics, scientific research has been slow to take off.

In this project we first try to specify the important characteristics of the Japanese diet by reviewing traditional dietary cultures of Japanese society, as well as common medical and nutritional thought. Here we also consider the state of Japanese cuisine abroad and the expectations of consumers internationally. Accordingly we proceed with a multifaceted investigation of the Japanese diet including contributions from clinical nutrition, medicine, epidemiology, food science, brain science, and the study of exercise. In September, six additional universities were selected to compliment our research. Together we aim to clarify various effects of the Japanese diet on physical and mental health and athletic ability, and also, investigate culinary effects on the foods and the mechanism of the cuisine’s deliciousness.

The Japanese Culinary Academy, which consists of energetic chefs of Japanese restaurants, will cooperate with us in the form of offering advice from a perspective of culinary expertise. Additionally the city of Kyoto, which emphasizes food education in its elementary schools, will also assist in sharing the results of the research with the greater community.

Kaori Ikeda, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor and Professor, Graduate school of Medicine
Nobuya Inagaki, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor and Professor, Graduate school of Medicine