Vietnam boasts a wide range of famous dishes such as pho (soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat – usually beef or chicken), banh mi (baguette filled with cold meats, pâté, and vegetables), and che (sweet dessert), with pho the top favorite of foodies, said Aoyagi Yoichiro, a member of Japan's House of Representatives.
Falling in love with pho 'at first sight' two decades ago, the Japanese congressman since then has seen the bond between him and Vietnam grow through cultural exchanges.
“Through these events, we hope that Vietnam and Japan will learn more about each other’s culture and tighten their bilateral ties,” Aoyagi told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper at the Japan Trend Festival held in Ho Chi Minh City last weekend that he served as head of the organizing board.
Aoyagi first came to Vietnam in 2003 to attend the annual IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians.
His first impression of this Southeast Asian country was that it looked dynamic and had much potential for growth, the Japanese politician recalled.
In the following years, the two countries exchanged more ideas to set up economic-political cooperation as well as initiated cultural exchange events, with the very first ones being the Japan Festival in Vietnam and then the Vietnam Festival in the East Asian nation, which later became annual events.
Many other events to strengthen the Vietnam-Japan ties have been launched in recent years after the number of Vietnamese working and learning in Japan kept rising.
“It’s helpful to build up the connection between the two countries in a systematic and regular manner, including the launch of many annual cultural and sporting events, in which people of the two nations take part in and learn about each other’s culture,” the congressman said.
He attached importance to the role of food in tourism events, saying that Japan has served a growing number of international visitors in recent years.
The East Asian nation welcomes an average of 20 million international tourists each year, with the majority of them seeking to explore Japanese cuisine as part of their must-do activities in the country.
|Food is key to achieving economic growth, according to Aoyagi Yoichiro, a member of Japan's House of Representatives. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
Therefore, the Japanese government and relevant agencies set the gastronomy tourism sector as one of Japan’s economic development strategies.
Also, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is planning to export Japanese food to destinations around the world, so that tourists can enjoy the Japanese food and culinary culture anywhere.
The Vietnamese culinary culture also boasts some similarities to the Japanese one, Aoyagi said, suggesting Vietnam should consider bringing Vietnamese dishes to every corner around the globe, as food is key to achieving economic growth.
The Japanese politician revealed that he is a fan of Vietnamese food, adding that the upcoming ‘Vietnam Pho Festival 2023’ in Japan is one of the country’s most notable culinary events overseas.
Amid the host of activities held throughout this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam - Japan bilateral diplomatic ties, the pho festival is anticipated to be an exciting occasion, he elaborated.
|The price list of Pho Thin Lo Duc restaurant in Tokyo, Japan in 2019. Photo: NICK M.|
According to him, a lot of Vietnamese firms set up their businesses in Japan, with the launch of Vietnamese restaurants in Japan remaining a popular business practice, and pho is likely to be the most widely-known Vietnamese dish there.
He shared that the Vietnamese pho is tasty and he liked the variety of the dish.
Aoyagi first tried pho during a hotel breakfast, he recalled.
“Its broth was delicious and the dish was easy to eat,” he recounted his impression when first sampling pho.
“Pho served at hotels definitely doesn’t taste as good as that offered at local eateries, but I think the Vietnamese pho is easy to eat," he added.
“I believe that not only me but also many other Japanese agree that the Vietnamese pho is very tasty.”
Aoyagi served as co-chair of the executive committee of the Vietnam Festival held in Japan in June this year.
He has made significant contributions to the Vietnam - Japan friendship over the years, including opening up opportunities for Vietnamese footballers to play in Japan.
He also joined 15 out of the 16 editions of the Vietnam Festival in Japan as part of the organizing board.
The ‘Vietnam Pho Festival 2023’ is scheduled to take place at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, Japan on October 7 and 8 this year, with the aim of enhancing the global recognition of Vietnamese culinary culture, particularly pho.
The festival also serves as a tangible commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.
The event is co-organized by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper and Saigontourist Group, in coordination with the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vietnam-Japan Friendship Association, and Japanese partners.
The program also enjoys sponsorship from national carrier Vietnam Airlines, Southern Airports Services Joint Stock Company, the Ngoc Linh Kontum K5 Ginseng Pho brand, and several other domestic and international companies.