The Vietnam Phở Festival 2023, which started at 11:00 am (Japanese time) on Saturday at Yoyogi Park, aims to promote Vietnamese culinary culture worldwide, especially the country’s famous beef noodle soup.

On the first day, more than 50,000 visitors joined the festival in Japan to enjoy the most popular dish of Vietnam, prepared by chefs from renowned Vietnamese pho restaurants.

Besides savoring delicious bowls of pho, attendees can also experience the close connection between Japanese and Vietnamese culinary cultures at the Vietnam Phở Festival 2023.

The festival also showcases a variety of pho as well as Japan’s famous noodles, ramen, and soba, delighting both international tourists and the Japanese.

Taking a long journey to join the Vietnam Phở Festival

Even though the festival didn’t open until 11:00 am, thousands of Japanese and foreigners crowded Yoyogi Park early in the morning and caught the aroma of Vietnamese pho wafting in the air.

Many Japanese families and young people were present in the park, eager to try the savory pho.

Odekakechan, wearing ao dai, Vietnam’s traditional costume, attended the festival with her friends to enjoy this beloved dish.

Pho is very yummy. It wasn’t until May when I visited Vietnam that I discovered and tasted pho bo, which has a broth made from beef bone and topped with beef. Previously, I had only eaten pho ga, which consists of chicken broth topped with chicken meat,” said Odekakechan.

“The pho here [at the festival] has the same flavor as the one I had during my trip to Vietnam. The dish is tasty and nutritious.”

Mariko Takeguchi, a Japanese teacher, was fascinated by the ‘cuisine world’ at the Vietnam Phở Festival 2023. She savors pho every month due to her great love for Vietnamese culture and pho.

“The rice noodles in the pho here [at the Pho Dau stall during the festival] are tastier than any I have had before,” she happily described the taste of pho.

Throngs of Japanese and Vietnamese flocked to Yoyogi Park from various places, spending their weekend traveling to the Vietnamese cuisine festival.

Tuan and his wife traveled nearly 40 kilometers from Yokohama to Tokyo and selected three pho brands to satisfy their nostalgic craving for this dish from their homeland.

“On the weekend, we brought back the nostalgic scent. Pho is also very popular in Japan. We often have to wait in line at a pho eatery,” said Tuan.

“The bowls of pho at the festival remind us of home.”

Vietnamese pho greatly welcomed by the Japanese

Vietnamese pho brands such as Pho Dau, Pho Thin, Pho Hai Thien, Pho Sam Ngoc Linh, Pho Sen SASCO, Pho Majestic Saigon Hotel, Pho Grand Saigon Hotel, and Pho VGCC are well-known and widely recognized in Japan.

Lines formed in front of the stalls run by these brands, eager to taste their bowls of pho.

The Vietnam Phở Festival 2023 saw more attendees exploring the culinary space at the park in the afternoon, while chefs worked tirelessly to serve the dish to guests.

Nguyen Tien Hai, the winner of the ‘Hoa Hoi Vang’ (Golden Star Anise) award from Pho’S, said that 80% of the customers at the booth were Japanese, with some of them enjoying two or three bowls of pho.

Seeing the way the Japanese savored pho, he felt the deep love they have for this iconic Vietnamese dish.

“Through pho, we can see the similarity and familiarity between Vietnamese and Japanese cultures,” he said.

He also emphasized that the festival contributes to the deepening of Vietnam-Japan friendship.

Aoyagi Yoichiro, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, said that many Japanese asked him on the opening day of the festival if the Vietnam Phở Festival will be held in Japan next year.

“Today, I savored three bowls of pho. The flavor at the festival is similar to what I had in Vietnam,” Aoyagi said.

Japanese politicians love Vietnamese pho

On the opening day of the Vietnam Phở Festival 2023, Chief Representative of Japan’s Komeito Party Yamaguchi Natsuo ate three bowls of pho cooked by three different brands. He also stayed at the festival for a long time to engage with other pho lovers.

He was first impressed by the taste of pho 32 years ago during his visit to Vietnam, he said.

He believes that anyone who tastes pho will fall in love with it.

“The flavor of pho is good and suits the Japanese palate. The various tastes of pho make it a special and unique dish,” said the Japanese politician.

“Through pho, we can see the similarity and familiarity between Vietnamese and Japanese cultures.”

He also highlighted that the festival contributes to deepening the Vietnam-Japan friendship.

Vietnam Phở Festival expected to travel to many countries

Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Pham Quang Hieu stated that every cuisine festival serves as an ideal cultural exchange platform.

Among them, the Vietnam Phở Festival 2023 plays a significant role in connecting people and promoting the cultures of both nations.

Nguyen Trung Khanh, head of the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism, affirmed that pho is not only a popular dish in Vietnam but also a carrier of Vietnamese culture and history.

Expanding the Vietnam Phở Festival globally will be considered to attract international tourists to Vietnam.

The Vietnam Phở Festival 2023 is co-hosted by Tuoi Tre and Saigontourist Group, with support from the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vietnam-Japan Friendship Association, Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, and Japanese partners.

The festival is a tangible celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan.

It features many renowned chefs and winners of the Hoa Hoi Vang award, such as Nguyen Tien Hai, Nguyen Tu Tin, and Pham Quang Duy.

Participating restaurants include Pho Dau, Pho Hai Thien, Hotel Majestic Saigon, Pho Phu Gia, Pho’S, Sen SASCO, Pho Ta, Binh Tay Food, Pho VGCC, and Pho Thin Bo Ho, among others.

The festival is sponsored by national carrier Vietnam Airlines, Suntory Beverage & Food, Southern Airports Services Joint Stock Company (SASCO), Dai-ichi Life, and Pho’S.

Miss Intercontinental 2022 Le Nguyen Bao Ngoc is the ambassador for this year’s festival.