Japan Tourism Agency to Promote Gastronomy Tourism

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Japan Tourism Agency

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Tourism Agency plans to support the development of tourism programs focusing on local food cultures in fiscal 2024, hoping to attract foreign tourists to rural areas.

Amid an increase in foreign tourists after the removal of COVID-19 restrictions last year, the agency aims to promote such tourism, called gastronomy tourism.

It will pay subsidies to travel companies and others to help cover the costs of establishing facilities that serve as bases for such tours, sources said.

In gastronomy tourism, which is becoming increasingly popular among wealthy people worldwide, travelers can be given opportunities to consume local food, which would contribute to efforts in many rural areas to promote local consumption of local products.

It is possible to develop travel products combining culinary and traditional cultural experiences in which participants spend over ¥1 million, according to the sources.

To facilitate the development of such products, the agency will provide up to ¥50 million in subsidies per applicant to support the establishment of bases for collecting food ingredients such as wild plants and allowing tour participants to have local cultural experiences.

Subsidy recipients will also be allowed to use the money to run advertisements of gastronomy tour products on foreign travel websites and develop food menus using local ingredients.

Among municipalities promoting tours highlighting local ingredients is Nagiso, Nagano Prefecture, where visitors are introduced to traditional local crafts and gibier cuisine unique to the Kiso Mountains, also called the Central Alps.

In Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, visitors can participate in tours to enjoy local seafood with a view of Mt. Fuji over Sagami Bay. In Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, tours featuring dishes made with local ginger are available.

In 2023, visitors from abroad spent a record ¥5,292.3 billion in Japan, surpassing the 2019 level of ¥4.8 trillion before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, most tourists tend to concentrate in popular spots. The agency hopes to leverage local food cultures as a means to encourage trips to rural areas, the sources said.