President Obama has been touring Asia this past week, with a stop in Japan. While in Japan, President Obama’s main focus was strengthening economic and security relations with the island country. Although the free trade talk agreements failed, Obama still managed to make a visit to one of Tokyo’s finest sushi restaurants. Gastrodiplomacy at its finest.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, arguably the world’s best sushi restaurant, was visited by some high profile guests this past Wednesday. Not only President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but also U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice. But was President Obama’s praising of the Tokyo hotspot simply because he enjoyed the spicy tuna or was there something more?
As we have looked in this class, a huge component of many country’s public diplomacy strategies is food. Japan is no different. The prevalence of sushi as a chic, urban meal in major cities around the world is a far cry from the meal’s origins as a way to preserve fish. However, the effects of globalization on sushi have allowed for a greater awareness and acceptance of Japanese culture. By promoting aspects of Japanese culture such as sushi, Japan is actively working towards creating a positive image that distinguishes themselves apart from their conflicts with China and tortured history with the United States.