Organized Panel Session
During the last two decades, research on the cultural dimensions of Japanese food, in both contemporary and historical contexts, has gained prominence in the social sciences and humanities. The number of scholarly publications on the topic has grown to such an extent that it might be called an academic trend, just as Japanese cuisine itself has become a fad. This panel sheds light on dimensions of Japanese food that have escaped scholarly attention up to now. Collectively, the four papers address the ecological, moral, cultural and geopolitical crises that loom beneath the mainstream knowledge of Japanese food.
Gavin Whitelaw addresses the remarkable amount of food waste behind the supposedly efficient sector of Japanese convenience stores (konbini), and explores the evidence of “edible resistance” and, more recently, the lawsuits connected with the discounting of food at the end of its shelf life. Aya Kimura’s paper discloses the role of tsukemono (traditional pickles) in agrobiodiversity governance, and the tension between privatization vs. communal ownership of local plants and seeds. Samuel Yamashita examines the unmistakable but often unacknowledged use of Japanese ingredients, culinary techniques and concepts by many chefs at fine dining establishments in the United States. The global infatuation with Japanese food now even includes attempts by the Japanese government to perpetuate the myth of washoku (Japanese cuisine), which is discussed by Katarzyna Cwiertka. Her paper draws attention to the moral responsibility of scholars to raise their voice in the face of tweaking of history for branding purposes.