Japanese cuisine has a well-established and highly deserved reputation as being among the best in the world. From sukiyaki to sake, Japanese cuisine is known and loved for its tremendous variety and intricate attention to detail. Sushi is now a global phenomenon, while ramen, once thought of as simply a cheap midnight snack for university students, has developed a cult-like following, led by celebrity chefs and ramen evangelists like David Chang and Ivan Orkin.

But if you take a look at the crowded family photo of Japanese cuisine you will find one of its best kept secrets: Asagohan! Never heard of it? Well you might want to add it to your growing list of Japanese vocabulary because you should make a point to seek it out. The good news is that asagohan is not hard to find. In fact, we are simply talking about breakfast.

In Japan, breakfast is kind of a big deal, but since the Japanese equivalent of IHOP is yet to emerge, Japanese breakfast hasn’t reached the level of acclaim it rightfully deserves. One of the reasons for this is that breakfast in Japan is inextricably linked with accommodations. In fact, with the exception of large hotels, most accommodations providers in Japan do not have restaurants open to non-guests. Rather, dinner is typically served in-room or in dining halls and is for guests only.

This is the context for the Rakuten Asagohan Festival (translated: breakfast festival), organized by Rakuten Travel. The festival began with online votes and was followed by regional cook-off tournaments for over 1,000 dishes. The final stage of the competition, which took place in Tokyo on November 18, saw the last 7 chefs standing vie for the title of best breakfast in Japan.

Rakuten Travel enlisted an elite panel of judges to help with the selection process, which also included 3 former Iron Chefs: Chen Kenichi, Koumei Nakamura, and Masahiko Kobe. The criteria for voting was based on taste, presentation, uniqueness, the ‘breakfast’ element (can you eat it first thing in the morning?), and of course, the omotenashi (hospitality) aspect expressed in the dish – perhaps one of the most important, considering the increasing influx of tourists to Japan.

At the end of the day, Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland emerged victorious and was named by Rakuten Travel as best breakfast in Japan.  So if you are lucky enough to visit Japan, you might want to add it to your itinerary. But based in our experience, wherever you stay in Japan, if you include meals in your accommodation package, you won’t likely be disappointed.

If you are interested in learning more about Rakuten Travel’s Asagohan Festival or hope to book some food-focused visits to Japan, please follow the links. If you are for the challenge of making some of these dishes at home, we are big fans of Oyshee, the beautiful new app that curates easy and healthy Japanese recipes.