You may have heard that the Michelin guide has been bestowing many stars on Japanese restaurants.  So many that Europeans are suspecting ulterior motives.

The generous distribution of stars has prompted a snarky backlash among some Western critics and celebrity chefs, whose collective egos can be larger than acroquembouche. Some have said Michelin is showering stars upon Japan in an attempt to gain favor in a brand-conscious, France-loving country where it wants to sell not only culinary guides, but automobile tires.

Well, the Japanese aren’t so keen either.

Many Japanese chefs, especially in the Kansai region, say they never courted this attention. Even a single Michelin star can be seen as a curse by the Japanese: Their restaurants are for their customers. Why cook for a room full of strangers? Even worse: crass foreigners.

“It is, of course, a great honor to be included in the Michelin guide. But we asked them not to include us,” says Minoru Harada, an affable young Osaka chef. His Sakanadokoro Koetsu, a fish restaurant with a counter and 10 seats, just earned a single star, its first. Loyal customers have sustained the restaurant over the years, he says, adding: “If many new customers come, it is difficult.”

And with the upcoming realease of Michelin’s guide to Tokyo, Japan may soon be the most spangled restaurant nation in the world.

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