The number of international students enrolled at culinary schools around Japan more than doubled to 424 in fiscal 2017 from 178 in fiscal 2010, according to the Japan Association of Training Colleges for Cooks. (Shutterstock/File)
Riding the global Japanese food boom, culinary training institutes in Japan have seen a surge in foreign students enrolling to learn how to make traditional Japanese cuisine.
The number of international students enrolled at culinary schools around Japan more than doubled to 424 in fiscal 2017 from 178 in fiscal 2010, according to the Japan Association of Training Colleges for Cooks.
The growing popularity of the schools comes as the number of Japanese restaurants overseas increased 30 percent over two years to 118,000 as of October 2017. Helping to fuel to boom was the addition of washoku -- or traditional Japanese cuisine -- to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013.
The operator of the Tsuji Culinary Institute and the Tsuji Institute of Patisserie in Osaka said its number of foreign students more than tripled to 240 over the seven years through fiscal 2017.
"I was stunned by the beauty of washoku's tableware and delicate taste, the spirit of hospitality and everything," said Li Zichen, a 23-year-old from Hangzhou, China who is studying at the Tsuji Culinary Institute. "There is no border for 'delicious' (food). I would like to become a respected cook, so my hometown folks can enjoy my dishes."
Most foreign students are from Asia, with trainee chefs from China accounting for 31.6 percent of the total in fiscal 2017, followed by South Koreans (24.3 percent), Vietnamese (15.6 percent), and Taiwanese (14.6 percent).
The Japanese food industry has high hopes the increasing number of cooks from overseas will help boost sales of their products around the world.
Tamaki Bito, head of the planning division of the Tsuji Culinary School, said the school wants foreign students to learn the Japanese tradition of the harmonized mixture of cooking and nature.
"We have a responsibility to support the cultural significance of food and agriculture," Bito said.
In 2016, the Japanese government established guidelines setting out the appropriate knowledge and skills that overseas cooks should possess to produce authentic Japanese cuisine.