No, it’s not a joke.
From Mainichi Shinbun English, citing Kyodo News (7/6/2011):
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A government-appointed panel held its first meeting Tuesday to consider a proposal to seek UNESCO registration for Japanese food culture as an intangible cultural heritage with a view to promoting food exports and Japan’s tourism industry.
Many of those present at the meeting were positive about the idea, saying Japanese food is valued around the world because it is healthy and also because of the esthetics of the way a dish is presented, the farm ministry said.
The panel, assembled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, will submit its report by October with an eye toward winning registration from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization by November 2013.
The ministry hopes the initiative will help restore trust in the safety of Japanese food now that some 40 countries have toughened regulations on food imports from Japan following the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
So far, French, Mexican and Mediterranean foods have been designated by UNESCO, and Korean imperial cuisine is expected to be added to the lists in November.
Mainichi Japanese (7/5/2011) has a bit more detail. The government panel consists of food industry big shots including the honorary chairman of Kikkoman and the head of a famous cooking school.
If the Japanese government wants to “restore trust in the safety of Japanese food”, the best thing it could do is to stop the radioactive material leak from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and embark on decontaminating the entire Tohoku and Kanto at whatever cost.
The Japanese government always wanted to create “inflation”. Here’s their chance. Just print money and spend to carry out the necessary work of restoring trust.
Instead, they operate on the cheap, calling radioactivity as “rumor” and pushing, of all things, Japanese food as a World Heritage, as if being recognized as such would somehow decontaminate the food in Japan.
Or they may be promoting a unique blend of 2,000-year Japanese cultural tradition and radioactive cesium and strontium, with a dash of plutonium and cobalt-60. Just like that nutty Fukushima doctor says, “Food with a bit of radiation will fetch premium!”