Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Golden billowing wheat graces not only Hokkaido’s landscape, but this often overlooked grain in academic discourse of food in Japan is also found in locales of domestic production all throughout the archipelago—from the outskirts of Tokyo to the island of Iejima in Okinawa. In this presentation, I highlight the ways in which wheat producers and researchers in Japan reassert and transform notions of nationalism and identity through the discourse of local wheat production, drawing from notions of terroir, landscape and ideas of the self.
While rice figures as a staple food in common parlance, wheat has been promoted in modern Japanese history as a source of nutrition for stalwart bodies during wartime, as well as a pivotal part of school lunches. While much of the wheat continues to be from abroad (as a continuation of the history of post-war wheat importation), there is a growing taste for domestic wheat, with its consumption signifying a heightened sense of cultural capital and intaking flavors of "our" land. Drawing from fieldwork in research centers in Hokkaido, wheat educational sites in Kanagawa, wheat farms in Iejima, etc., I argue that people currently engage in these cultivational and gustatory activities surrounding domestic wheat in Japan as a means of reproducing and transforming notions of self and identity. I draw from wider scholarship on Japanese foodways to underscore the social meanings produced through the consumption of this grain. I will include a short film from my fieldwork research to visually and aurally ground my analyses.