“Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan” covers everything from Tokyo's famous fish market to the art of tea.

By Bridget Hallinan
September 10, 2019
Courtesy of Google Arts & Culture

Earlier this spring, Google Arts & Culture (you know, the platform behind that viral “Art Selfie” tool), launched a digital exhibit called “Spain: An Open Kitchen,” which highlights the artistry of Spanish food. The gorgeous spread guides users through eight different regional cuisines, a wine map of Spain, and 25 El Bulli creations from Ferrán Adria that “changed the world of cooking,” along with many, many other capsules and videos. Now, Google has shifted its focus to yet another food-centric exhibit—this time, dedicated to Japanese cuisine. Live Tuesday, September 10, the project is called “Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan,” and allows users to explore “the depths of Japanese food from three perspectives: history, places and dishes.”

Created in collaboration with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, as well as 19 other partners, the exhibit is a nod to the growing popularity of Japanese food around the world, per Google, and is also timed to the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Much like “Spain: An Open Kitchen,” “Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan” is organized by capsules. It starts off with a “bitesize history” of Japanese food, which is organized like a bento box—as you scroll, you’ll cycle through different facts, such as how Japanese cuisine used to be vegetarian (this occurred when Buddhism was introduced in the Kofun period), and that ramen came to be in the 17th century, when a surge of Chinese students moved to Japan and restaurants started to mix Chinese noodles with Japanese cuisine for a quick meal.

Further scrolling produces decoders on iconic Japanese dishes and drinks (think sushi, ramen, wagashi, tea, sake, and the aforementioned bento boxes), as well as spotlights on Tokyo's Toyosu fish market (which replaced the famed Tsukiji market) and cuisine from the Hiroshima prefecture—the latter is where you'll find a presentation on feminist vegan chocolate makers. There are also sections dedicated to the art of tea, sake, and an explainer on Japanese tableware (as well as how to lay a table). The exhibit closes with a panel of three modules resting under the phrase “because there’s more to food than eating”—together, they break down the culture, tastes, and ingredients behind Japanese cuisine. 

“Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan” is now live on Google Arts & Culture. You can also check out “Come Chop Bellefull: A Taste of Nigeria,” which went live this year, too—after Spain, before Japan—and focuses on all things Nigerian food, from how to make jollof rice to the super powers of peppersoup.

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