Chefs for the blue: Tokyo’s top chefs join scientists, journalists, and food culture experts to promote sustainable seafood in Japan

Depletion of seafood resources and the collapse of small coastal fisheries, which have supported Japan’s fish-eating culture for centuries, are dire conditions in need of immediate attention. Unfortunately, the majority of society is not aware of this problem due to a lack of media attention.

Although seafood has been an essential part of Japanese food culture and history, current fishery and resource management and regulations in Japan are weak compared to many developed western societies. Although reformation of fishery industry and resource management systems are now being considered as main topics at the ongoing government discussion, seafood resources around Japan are on the edge of collapse. This might be our last chance to save our food culture and pass a healthy ocean to future generations. As a collaborative group of chefs, journalist, scientist, consultant, and NGO, we can work to raise awareness and create public opinions to move the society and government before it is too late.

Please describe your vision for how your team will approach the problem, how collaboration is essential to success, and what ideal outcome or deliverable will result.

The core of this project is Tokyo’s top chefs. Chefs are very powerful influencers to both downstream (consumers) and upstream (producers) in the society. Chefs can tell a story about the fish on the menu and create an opportunity for the guests to start thinking about the issue through the dining experience. They can also support small sustainable fisheries by buying seafood from them. The journalist can amplify chefs’ influence by approaching the media. The NGO provides the tools and expertise for chefs to choose sustainable seafood which is supervised by scientists for its accountability. The consulting company connect chefs and sustainable producers and expand the network into global sustainable seafood movement to learn from their journey.

Tokyo is hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. As Tokyo draws global attention, we believe this is our window of opportunity. Chefs for the Blue will focus on raising awareness in the society and take the first step to achieve seafood sustainability in Japan by using chefs’ driving power and influences. As a result we hope to see more consumers seeking sustainable seafood. In the past few years, supermarkets in Japan started introducing sustainable options. By raising consumers’ awareness, we would like to optimize the demand and supply balance and utilize that as a driving force to expand sustainable seafood market in Japan.

How can this sustainability challenge benefit from the experience and expertise of the seafood community?

  1. Learning about successful models from other countries: Japan has a unique seafood culture and history, but seafood sustainability is a new concept in the market. As our project expands, it will be very helpful to learn from successful examples in the global community to design the successful path in Japan. In particular, we have the following questions we hope will be answered through collaboration with Co-Lab: a) How did consumers’ voice affect and change the society in other countries where a sustainable seafood market had already been established? b) What kind of path did the movement take to get where it is today, and who was involved in each process? c) Was there any specific influencer or event that acted as a catalyst of the movement? d) How did chefs initiative affected producers? e) Do you see more direct collaborations between chefs and producers?
  2. Networking: Japanese chefs have not seen a mature, sustainable seafood market, hence it is challenging for them to imagine what the successful sustainable seafood market and culinary sense will look like in Japan. We would like to use this opportunity as a networking opportunity to meet and join global sustainable seafood chefs’ movement to learn from their journey and also to share our seafood culture.

Final pitch: What makes this project unique, and uniquely valuable to sustainable seafood?

This project started when a food journalist first learned of the harsh reality of declining seafood resources. She immediately shared the issue with her colleagues, Tokyo’s top chefs. Soon after that, over 30 Tokyo’s top chefs, including Michelin star chefs, started gathering for midnight study sessions, after the restaurants closed, to learn about global seafood issues and sustainable seafood. Since then, they have been voluntarily participating in food truck events where they served a great variety of sustainable seafood dishes and organizing panel discussions to reach out to consumers.

Understanding society’s behavior toward food trend in Japan, it is crucial to have influential chefs on board. In Japan, food is a big part of our everyday lives; people gather around food, foodies are constantly looking for a new trend to start. Waiting hours in line to try out trendy food is not bothersome. In fact, some travel across the country to do so. With its rich food culture, many Japanese are foodies by birth. By amplifying the driving power of the sustainable seafood chefs, who are true to their beliefs and work, we believe we can shine the light on sustainable seafood.

Washoku, traditional japanese cuisine, became UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. Tokyo is hosting summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. This is the window of opportunity to begin our sustainable seafood journey in Japan. This project is the first time in Japan where a group of chefs united to solve a social issue in collaboration with a journalist, scientist, NGO, and consulting company. Although each project member comes from the different backgrounds, we all shared one belief: if we don’t act now, there will be no fish for future generations. We believe that we, as a collaboration of diverse professionals, can move the society forward to achieve seafood sustainability in Japan.


Hiroko Sasaki, Independent journalist / Japan

Business sector or primary seafood-related activity: Media
Key areas of expertise: Tokyo’s culinary scene, food culture and history
Role on the team: Organizing events, study session, and media outreachName Shinsuke Ishii, Chefs for the Blue / Japan
Business sector or primary seafood-related activity: Chef and restaurant owner at Sincere
Key areas of expertise: Modern French cuisine
Role on the team: Lead chef of Chefs for the Blue

Shinsuke Ishii, Chefs for the Blue / Japan

Business sector or primary seafood-related activity: Chef and restaurant owner at Sincere
Key areas of expertise: Modern French cuisine
Role on the team: Lead chef of Chefs for the Blue

Fumio Yonezawa, Chefs for the Blue / Japan

Business sector or primary seafood-related activity: Executive Chef at Jean-Georges Tokyo
Key areas of expertise: Modern French & American cuisine
Role on the team: Sub lead chef of Chefs for the Blue

Hanae Matsui, Seafood Legacy / Japan

Business sector or primary seafood-related activity: Sustainable seafood consultancy
Key areas of expertise: Buyer engagement, research
Role on the team: International coordination and networking

Other Team Members

Toshio Katsukawa, Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (Fishery science specialist) Minako Iue, Sailors for the Sea Japan (Seafood rating NGO) Shuzo Kishida, Chef and owner at French restaurant Quintessence Yoshihisa Akiyama, Executive chef at Japanese restaurant Mutsukari Ryosuke Tamura, Chef and owner at Chinese restaurant Azabu Choko Kofukuen

Kan Morieda, Chef fusion cuisine restaurant Salmon and Trout

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