Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This study examines the culinary circuitry of a relatively new development in urban Honolulu--the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk (SJVW), which opened in July 2016 to much fanfare. This research takes SJVW as a case study of Japan outside of Japan, asking, how does Japan-as-food becomes integral to brand Japan? How does this brand Japan effect politico-cultural climate changes of consumption? Built at a cost of $35 million dollars, occupying 65,000 square feet within Honolulu's major urban shopping center, and calling itself a "theme park village" with statues of guardian deities and a template of a monzen-machi (temple town), SJVW presents itself to the public as a firsthand experience of japan outside of Japan. Local residents and tourists, including Japanese nationals (both resident and tourist) may flock to the venue, but how do each interpret the experience? Furthermore, the food served at SJVW includes a wide variety, from sushi to doughnuts to fried rice. Within the vast food court, the most consistently popular locale is the beer garden which boasts $1.00 brews. As food and drink play an increasingly important role in tourism worldwide, the idea of the culinary cosmopolitan leads the way in approaching such circuits of desire. At a commercial venue such as SJVW, the constructedness of Japan undergoes transformations in meanings, practices, and interpretations. Although monzen-machi may be of little interest to customers, what remains is brand Japan as a set of communal, commercial, and sensual practices.