Both films/shows discuss some of the criticism against Michelin. In particular, they both discuss the criticism that Michelin has given out more stars in Japan than any other country. In fact, there are more 3 star restaurants in Japan than any other country. Some suggest it was due to Michelin trying to sell more guides in Japan and make the guide more popular in Asia.
I came upon this random article about the new head of the Michelin Guide (here), and he said the following about that criticism:
In Japan, there's double the population and fifty times the restaurants.
Holy crap! That blew me away. So I began digging up some numbers.
Here's a completely random page with some details from 2010. In Japan, there are about 474K restaurants or one restaurant for every 266 people. Compared to the US, it's 566K, or one restaurant for every 547 people. That boggles my mind that the restaurant density in Japan is nearly twice that of the US.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any more details beyond that, so I think I'm going to have to go with Yelp for restaurant data and Wikipedia for population data on individual cities. Lets start with US cities that are currently Michelin rated.
|San Francisco||5038||0.825M||1 per 163 people|
|Chicago||9692||2.715M||1 per 280 people|
|New York||33481||8.337M||1 per 249 people|
Now naturally, I don't know how Yelp is calculating "restaurants" when I type in a city. Is it restaurants only within the city limits? Is it restaurants in the general region and area? Do users have to input restaurants into Yelp? Is the restaurant count to some extent dependent on the popularity of Yelp in an area?
Heck, are the restaurants listed even restaurants? When I looked up the restaurants in San Francisco, the first restaurant listed (Lazy Bear) isn't even a restaurant with a location, it's a pop-up/underground restaurant. In addition, "Restaurants" may include a number of bars.
However, the number is probably a pretty decent estimate. Based on this random article I found, it isn't horrifically far off.
Lets look at a few European cities now.
|London||20617||8.426M||1 per 408 people|
|Dublin||4343||0.527M||1 per 122 people|
|Hamburg||4813||1.799||1 per 373 people|
|Paris||19864||2.211M||1 per 111 people|
Interestingly enough, some areas have much higher densities of restaurants but some way lower. Personally, I did not know that Dublin was such a relatively small city, yet its restaurant count is so high.
Now lets look at some Japanese cities.
|Tokyo||108926||13.185M||1 per 121 people|
|Kyoto||7859||1.473M||1 per 187 people|
|Osaka||23105||2.666M||1 per 115 people|
Holy crap! While the density isn't that different than a few European cities, the pure count of the restaurants is amazing. Despite having a population only about 60% more than New York, Tokyo has about three times the number of restaurants. Despite having a population close to Chicago, Osaka has well over 2 times the number of restaurants. The overall density, based on this minor sampling, is it's much more dense across Japan than Europe.
It makes sense that given these numbers, there would be way more Michelin stars awarded to Japan than Europe in general.