Breakfast is a very special and unique part of the appeal of a stay in Japan, and thanks to some serious tasting competitions, we are officially one step closer to finding Japan’s best breakfast.

Since 2010, Rakuten Travel’s annual Breakfast Festival has provided a platform for over 32,000 Rakuten Travel lodgings to show off their most delicious breakfast offerings. Last month, breakfast masters from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures gathered in front of Rakuten Crimson House in Tokyo for the second stage of the highly competitive culinary contest.

Breakfast is a very special and unique part of the appeal of a stay in Japan.

Breakfast is a very special and unique part of the appeal of a stay in Japan.

The first stage of the festival saw the top three hotel breakfasts from each of Japan’s prefectures selected by a combination of Rakuten member votes and Rakuten Travel reviews submitted by guests.

On stage at round two of the Asagohan Festival.

On stage at the second round of Rakuten Travel’s annual Breakfast Festival.

The next stage took place over two days in front of Rakuten Crimson House in October, inviting members of the public to judge offerings from the prefectural winners. Divided into six groups, representatives from each hotel gave a short presentation on the history behind their specialties before serving up a portion for tasting.

Taste-testing the competition

Many tasters spent the morning lining up outside of Rakuten’s headquarters for their chance to experience some of the country’s best morning meals. Each judge was presented with a selection of eight breakfasts, which they judged according to presentation, taste and suitability for consumption early in the day.

Culinary delights designed to give guests a reason to wake up early were on full display at the event.

Culinary delights designed to give guests a reason to wake up early were on full display at the event.

The dishes on offer featured an astonishing variety of creative morning cuisine, including French toast, miso soup, apple-topped gratin, vegetable sushi, croissants, cheese risotto, steamed buns, roast beef burgers and much, much more.

Breakfast collage - Part One

The eventual winners of stage two proved no less diverse, with a beautifully presented selection of steamed egg hotchpotch, fresh sushi, rice soup, rice porridge, somen galette and spinach chowder winning over the judges’ taste buds.

Breakfast collage - Part Two

These champions will advance to the final stage, where they will be judged by a panel of culinary experts including the legendary Iron Chef warrior Toshiro Kandagawa on November 28.

A matter of pride for Rakuten Travel’s hotels

2018 marks the festival’s ninth year. The project began shortly after Travel Business Vice President Yoshiyuki Takano joined the service.

Travel Business Vice-President Yoshiyuki Takano hands an official invitation to the next round of the Breakfast Festival to a contestant on stage at the event.

Travel Business Vice President Yoshiyuki Takano hands an official invitation to the final stage of the Breakfast Festival to the winner of the day’s event.

“When I first started working with Rakuten Travel about 10 years ago, I saw how much work the hotels were putting into their breakfast menus,” Takano recalls. “But their hard work was being overlooked by potential guests, who had no way of knowing about it in advance. That’s why we created this prize, to help hotels better market their excellent breakfasts.”

Recognition from the Breakfast Festival can be an important marketing tool for many hotels, and it isn’t uncommon to see the festival logo decorating both Rakuten Travel reservation pages and hotel check-in counters. “Winning that prize definitely helps boost the hotels’ brand image,” commented Takano.

But it isn’t all about winning. “With this festival we have created an offline space where hotels can directly interact with the general public who are judging the festival, like we saw during the second stage,” Takano explains. For online businesses, the chance to interact with potential customers can be a valuable opportunity.

Sometimes breakfast can be one of the best parts of a trip.

Sometimes breakfast can be one of the most enjoyable parts of a trip.

The breakfast champion pool has been narrowed down to just six finalists, and the overall winner is set to be judged tomorrow. Keep an eye out for the Rakuten Travel Breakfast Festival stamp of recognition on your next Japan trip!