July 03, 2023

Destination Restaurants 2023: Award ceremony

Destination Restaurants is a list of Japan’s best restaurants published by The Japan Times. Started in 2021, the list is selected by Japanese experts with an international audience in mind. On June 20, The Japan Times hosted the 2023 Destination Restaurants Awards at The Tender House, a cozy restaurant in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, in which the selected restaurants were recognized for their exquisite dishes and sustainable cuisine.

Restaurant Hagi, located in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, won Destination Restaurant of the Year 2023.

The chef and owner of Hagi, Harutomo Hagi, mentioned that since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, local farmers and chefs have been working together to ensure that the food and cuisine of Fukushima is not lost, and it is very important for local people to recognize the existence of local chefs through the Destination Restaurants award, adding, “I want to bring people to Fukushima with the power of cuisine.”

The 120-odd attendees were delighted with curated platters prepared by some of the listed chefs, as well as La Grande Dame champagne provided by MHD.

During the event’s talk session, the judges talked about the motivations behind making the Destination Restaurants list. The judges selecting the restaurants, Yoshiki Tsuji, Naoyuki Honda and Takefumi Hamada, explained that the evaluation criteria included not simply using local ingredients, but whether the chefs have the skills to make the best use of the ingredients in a sustainable way, whether they are creating a unique gastronomy, whether they are playing an important role in raising the level of local producers by having their restaurants at the selected locations, and whether a restaurant adds to the community by shining a light on it.

The three judges said they hoped the Destination Restaurant award would have a positive impact on local communities and producers by bringing restaurants and chefs in untapped areas to the public’s attention.

Award-winning chef of Destination Restaurants 2023

Award-winning chefs and judges

Japan National Tourism Organization Director Reiko Nakayama

Bolivian Charge d’Affaires Natalia Fernanda Salazar Balderrama gives a toast.

Takayuki Ogawa, chief operating officer at Tasaki, one of the event’s main sponsors, gives a few words.

Destination Restaurants judges (from left) Takefumi Hamada, Naoyuki Honda and Yoshiki Tsuji lead the panel session.

From left: Tsuji, Japan Times Chairperson Minako Suematsu, Honda and Hamada

Chefs and attendees

Chefs and attendees

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