ASCJ 2009
SATURDAY JUNE 20, 3:30 P.M.-5:30 P.M

Session 21

Meaning Behind Eating in Contemporary Japan

Chair / Organizer: Chrissie Tate Reilly, Monmouth University

Presenters:

1) Chrissie Tate Reilly, Monmouth University

Food Fight: Patriotic Eating in World War II Japan

2) Hiroko Shimbo, Japanese Cooking Authority, Chef, Cookbook Author

The Happiest Black Pig: Sustainable farming and Okinawa style pork diet

3) Stephanie Assmann, Tohoku University

Slow Food Japan: Reviving Local Foodways in a Global Food Paradise

4) Joshua Evan Schlachet, Kagoshima University

We Are What They Ate: Lived Imagination in Contemporary Satsuma Cuisine

Discussant:

1) Elizabeth Andoh, A Taste of Culture

Meaning Behind Eating in Contemporary Japan

Chair / Organizer: Chrissie Tate Reilly, Monmouth University

This panel features presentations and commentary by both Japanese food theorists and practitioners. Two papers examine the rise of local foodways, one paper looks at the globalization of sushi, and one paper discusses food during World War II. The search for national and regional identity expressed through food is one central theme of our panel. We will examine Japanese food, its changes and trends, its modern manifestations, its ability to adapt, its global presence, and all of these implications. The depth and regional variety of Japanese cuisine is highlighted by contrasting it with wartime imported foods, showing how pork – a usually taboo food – is an essential part of an island’s ecosystem, seeking to maintain its authenticity through the Slow Food movement, and the task of maintaining Japanese cuisine’s integrity overseas. We seek to provide detailed answers to the following questions: Is it possible that eating locally grown native foods make a person more Japanese? In what situations does the consumption of foreign foods ever present a benefit? And how does the dissemination of a food make it even more iconic?

1) Chrissie Tate Reilly, Monmouth University

Food Fight: Patriotic Eating in World War II Japan

Eating during wartime is especially problematic. The usual concerns of getting adequate nutrition are exacerbated by crop destruction, government intervention, scarcity, and inflation. These conditions are countered by culinary ingenuity, sacrifice, and symbolism. I will argue that the conditions during WWII had a polarizing effect for indigenous and foreign foods. Imported cuisine, like military fare, substitute cuisine, like sweet potatoes, and native cuisine, like rice, made up the wartime diet. Imported foods were extolled because of their caloric density. Substitute cuisine was favored because of its availability and low cost. Each of these allowed more native foods to be sent as rations to members of the Japanese military. When native foods were available for public consumption, they were important nutritionally, but also what they represented was elevated: sacrifice for soldiers and the good of the nation. This phenomenon is patriotic eating. The evolution of this will be examined from the Manchurian Incident through the summer of 1945.

2) Hiroko Shimbo, Hiroko's Kitchen, Japanese Cooking Authority, Chef, Cookbook Author

The Happiest Black Pig: Sustainable farming and Okinawa style pork diet

Okinawa is an island of great human longevity and often attributed to the unique aspects of the Okinawan diet. In traditional Okinawan cuisine pork has always played an important role, and Okinawans’ love affair with pork continues. Until quite recently every family kept a pig or two at home. Pigs were fed with materials produced in the kitchen and slaughtered once at the beginning of the year. New Year was celebrated with special dishes that Okinawans could not afford during the rest of the year. This tradition of keeping pigs at home changed to large-scale, unsustainable, resource intensive pig framing as has happened in other parts of the world resulting in many unhappy pig stories. An interest in Okinawan cuisine led me to visit Ganaha Chikusan (Ganaha Pig Farm) in Okinawa Prefecture. The owner/president Mr. Ganaha has been raising his pigs with humane and sustainable methods, and his pigs are among the happiest on earth. The meat from these animals is recognized as the most delicious pork in Japan. In this lecture I will present the methods of high quality, sustainable pig farming practiced at Ganaha Chikusan. The special diet and calcium water extracted from coral that the pigs consume every day is an important part of the process. Even environmental hygiene is carried out with renewable, sustainable materials. In a recently developed process the barns are fumigated with lactic acid liquid; resulting in a pig farm with absolutely no odor. The lecture includes delicious recipes.

3) Stephanie Assmann, Tohoku University

Slow Food Japan: Reviving Local Foodways in a Global Food Paradise

While Japanese foods such as sushi and sashimi have become increasingly popular outside Japan, the rise of Chinese, Korean, Mexican and European foods has led to a remarkable diversity of foods and a blending with Japanese foodways, especially in Japan’s major cities. In opposition to the globalization of food, Slow Food Japan, which is part of the worldwide Italian Slow Food Movement, seeks to preserve historic agricultural products such as vegetables, fruits and cattle that are in danger of vanishing and tied to a specific region and cultivation techniques. Members of Slow Food Japan argue that the need to improve Japan’s low self-sufficiency rate of 40 percent and the dangers of relying on imported foods as documented in a recent series of food scandals in Japan request a return to national produce (kokusan). Taking the case of Slow Food Japan in Miyagi Prefecture in Northern Japan as an example, I argue that the quest for a return to supposedly safer domestic foods disguises a search for national identity expressed through the (re)discovery and promotion of local foods. In this context, I will also examine the efforts of local farmers in Miyagi who revive agricultural products characteristic of a specific region in order to show how the promotion of an indigenous fare is tied to the development of tourism, especially in rural areas in Japan that are driven to the margins of the country.

4) Joshua Evan Schlachet, Kagoshima University

We Are What They Ate: Lived Imagination in Contemporary Satsuma Cuisine

The consumption of Japanese cuisine by the Japanese public entails both a physical ingestion of food and a symbolic negotiation with the representational vocabulary of identity, culture and commodity, entering both the producers and consumers implicitly into a discourse on broader cultural imagination. This paper examines the lingering notion of historical continuity embedded in the contemporary Japanese self-image, focusing specifically on local and national cuisines as symbols of the perceived interconnection between individual, place, nation and past. Utilizing marketing materials and strategies for current Japanese food products, I explore the manner in which romanticized images of history and space are re-packaged to reinforce the notion of the Japanese self as inherently related to Japan-as-place. These images of continuity and internal coherence, however, begin to unravel when confronted with various micro- and macrocosms of regional contestation and global re-contextualization. This paper focuses on representations of Satsuma (modern-day Kagoshima) cuisine, paying particular attention to the intersection between nostalgic imagination and the lived experience of everyday consumption. Cuisine, both as a necessary aspect of everyday life and as a form of consumable culture that mediates our bodily interaction with the social world, is a natural element of such questions of identity.

Discussant:

1) Elizabeth Andoh, owner/director of A Taste of Culture, and author of Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen