2017.02.14

The Changing Scene of Japanese Food in Florence!

When I had just moved to Florence, there were only a handful of restaurants that served Japanese food and few places where I could buy Japanese ingredients. The amount of items sold was limited and expensive, so there were no opportunities to easily eat Japanese food. However, several years ago sushi finally became popular in Florence, and in a blink the number of restaurants serving sushi rapidly increased. Along with that, ingredients needed for making sushi became readily available at supermarkets, including vinegar, seaweed, wasabi, and rice.

Even so, in Florence where fish is expensive, sushi is thought of as high priced even though the sushi toppings aren’t that amazing. Although not to the degree as before, I still felt that I couldn’t easily enjoy a meal of sushi.

However, around the year before last, restaurants offering all-you-can-eat sushi have appeared, and ramen shops that are easier on the wallet than sushi have drastically grown in number. Then, different from sushi and ramen, from this year restaurants modeled after Japanese-style bars and establishments using Japanese ingredients have emerged. There are now even Italian restaurants that use soy sauce as a secret ingredient, and matcha green tea and yuzu in desserts. The sushi restaurants, too, are not expensive businesses serving bad sushi. The chefs take it upon themselves to visit Japan and learn the craft of sushi from Japanese sushi chefs. There are now sushi restaurants meticulous about quality.

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(Fatty tuna and seared tuna hand-shaped sushi made by an Italian chef)

Locally brewed sake, which previously were unavailable, are gradually being served at more and more restaurants. Though they are still not well known, if you want to enjoy it, you can drink authentic local sake brewed by a Japanese craftsman.

Compared to 10 or so years ago, today the choices have really grown to include everything from low-priced restaurants to high-end restaurants, Japanese-style bars, and establishments serving a mix. Generally, Japanese foods other than sushi are little by little becoming known.

Without a doubt, the foods are still different from the cuisine you can eat in Japan, but I think that Japanese food has become so widely available because the image of Japanese cuisine is of healthy eating. Nowadays, you can even buy konnyaku and shirataki as diet foods at supermarkets and pharmacies. The amount of Japanese vegetables and types of seasonings sold also have increased a great deal. Japanese living in Florence are extremely happy that they can now easily make Japanese foods at home.

I think Japanese cuisine is integral to getting to know Japanese culture and hope that from now on Japanese food culture in Florence will become widespread.