June 14, 2024

Destination Restaurants 2024: 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 May 28, The Japan Times hosted the 2024 Destination Restaurants Awards at Dining 33 Hills House, a cozy restaurant in Azabudai Hills Mori JP Tower, in which the selected restaurants were recognized for their exquisite dishes and sustainable cuisine.

Restaurant Elezo Esprit, located in Nakagawa city, Hokkaido Prefecture, won Destination Restaurant of the Year 2024. The chef and owner, Shota Sasaki, opened Elezo Esprit in 2022, an inn-style hotel made up of three accommodation buildings. The main dining room has six counter seats. The restaurant, which offers a course menu, is open to hotel guests and nonguests alike, but overnight guests currently make up 90% of its customers.

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 | TAKAO OHTA

Award-winning chefs and judges | TAKAO OHTA

All of the Destination Restaurants award-winning chefs were present at the event, showing support for their fellow awardees. | TAKAO OHTA

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

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Director Reiko Nakayama | TAKAO OHTA

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

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