(SPOT.ph) If your love for Japanese food is beyond queuing up at your favorite ramen restaurant, and goes into rolling your own sushi, making your own bento box, and learning about the country's cuisine, then your browser history may have pages on anything and everything Japanese. You may have ran into YouTube vlogs that are a complete waste of time, opened tabs with questionable information, or ended up going down a rabbit hole that leads to more rabbit holes. The latest venture of Google Arts and Culture hopes to satisfy both your Japanese cuisine cravings but also your interest for Japanese food history in one seamless platform through Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan.
"Needless to say, food, mirrors culture. And for us, to better appreciate food, we need to understand the story behind it,” Mervin Wenke, Communications and Public Affairs Lead of Google Philippines, tells selected members of the media. He also explained that "meshiagare" means "enjoy your meal," and the platform serves as an invitation for everyone to discover the flavors of Japan.
Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan features 133 online exhibits, such as The Roots of Ramen, The Story of Takoyaki, and The Bar-Hopping Culture of Shinjuku Golden Street; 39 videos that show how you can make your own bento box or sake, a walk-through of Sasaki Sake Brewery, and interview with tea grandmaster Kobori Sojitsu; and 3,633 digital copies of Japanese artworks and artifacts. It’s a digital walkthrough of Japan’s gastronomy history, all the way from the Edo period in the 17th century to present time.
"It helps us understand Japanese cuisine from multiple perspectives,” Wenke adds. So aside from local produce, Japanese dishes, and lots of food trivia, Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan also gives us human interest narratives—such as the tale of Kazuko Ishigaki who encouraged women in her community to set up their own livelihood or the story of how a group of women in Onomichi put up their own chocolate factory. There's also a section on Japanese phrases related to food, manga titles about local cuisine, and Japanese tableware.
When asked what makes Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan different from all the videos, blogs, and lifestyle websites that pop up on our screen when we search “Japanese cuisine” on Google, Wenke says: “Everything is in one place.” You can even access it through the Google Arts and Culture app, and spend hours clicking from one online exhibit to another while stuck in traffic.
Another major difference, according to him, is that Google Arts and Culture worked with industry experts for the project. For Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan, they collaborated with 20 partners from Japan, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries; Wajima Museum of Urushi Art; Keio University Library; and Umami Information Center. “You can really ensure that the information is very credible,” he says.
Finally, Google Arts and Culture’s Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan is a marriage of historical and practical information, he explained. You not only learn the history behind sushi, but you also find out how to roll your own—and what’s not to like about that?
Meshiagare! Flavors of Japan is available for viewing through Google Arts and Culture’s website or mobile application (iOS and Android). For cultural organizations looking to have a similar collaboration, sign up through Google Arts and Culture.