The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture

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The past few years have shown a growing interest in cooking and food, as a result of international food issues such as BSE, world trade and mass foreign travel, and at the same time there has been growing interest in Japanese Studies since the 1970s. This volume brings together the two interests of Japan and food, examining both from a number of perspectives. The book reflects on the social and cultural side of Japanese food, and at the same time reflects also on the ways in which Japanese culture has been affected by food, a basic human institution. Providing the reader with the historical and social bases to understand how Japanese cuisine has been and is being shaped, this book assumes minimal familiarity with Japanese society, but instead explores the country through the topic of its cuisine.

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Editorial Reviews

Having written elsewhere about Japanese culture, Ashkenazi and Jacob explore the Japanese meal and the historical, social, and economic principles that underpin the food culture. They draw on fieldwork, surveys, shop advertisements, and classical writings and paintings to describe such details as menu arrangement, cooking techniques, course selection, and entertainment styles. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
'An extensive and interesting study of a subject on which hitherto there has been very little written in English.' - Petits Propos Culinaires
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812235661
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/26/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 746,076
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Ashkenazi has written scholarly articles on Japanese religion, business, and food. Jeanne Jacob is a scholar and author on Japanese art, crafts, and food.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements XI
Illustrations XV
Map of Japan XVI
Chapter 1 Redefining Japanese Food 1
1.1. An Analytical Dimension 7
1.2. Objectives and Methodology 9
1.3. The Questions 11
1.4. The Organisation of the Book 12
1.5. Technical Note: Words, Pronunciation, and Glosses 13
Readings for Chapter 1 14
Chapter 2 A Framework for Discussion 15
2.1. Food in Historical Theory 16
2.2. Some Points of Agreement 21
2.3. The Utility of the Concept of "Rules" 23
2.4. The Food Event as an Analytical Phenomenon 24
2.5. Change in Foods 26
2.6. Food as an Aesthetic and as Art 29
2.7. Food Culture and Total Culture 33
2.8. A Structured View of Japanese Food 34
Readings for Chapter 2 36
Chapter 3 Japanese Food in its Background 37
3.1. Geography and History 37
3.2. Historical Matrix 39
3.3. Religion 41
3.4. Gaijin at the Gates: External Influences 42
3.5. The Business of Food 46
3.6. The Japanese Household: Where One Eats 52
3.7. Gurume: the Rise of Luxury as a Lifestyle 58
3.8. From Wild to Natural: the Rise of the Natural Food Movement 60
3.9. Food as a Symbol: Nihonjin and other-Ron 61
3.10. Summary 64
Readings for Chapter 3 65
Chapter 4 Food Events and Their Meaning 66
4.1. The Schematic Structure of the Japanese Meal 67
4.2. Central Rice Meals 76
4.3. Peripheral Rice Meals 77
4.4. Oratsu: Non-Rice Food Events 81
4.5. Summary 82
Readings for Chapter 4 83
Chapter 5 Food Preparation Styles 84
5.1. Raw Foods: Namasumono 85
5.2. Nimono: Nabemono and Entertainment 87
5.3. Agemono: Frying and the Art of Borrowing 90
5.4. Rakimono: Teppan 93
5.5. Nimono: Men-Rui 101
5.6. Male and Female in the Food Game 105
5.7. Summary 111
Readings for Chapter 5 112
Chapter 6 Food Loci 113
6.1. The Home 115
6.2. Eating Out 119
6.3. Bar Foods 124
6.4. Georgaphical Choice and "Esunikku" Restaurants 129
6.5. Social Correlates of Food Loci 135
Readings for Chapter 6 138
Chapter 7 Aesthetics in the World of Japanese Food 139
7.1. Taste: the Physiological Element 141
7.2. Colour and Shape in Utensils 146
7.3. Texture 150
7.4. Influences of Japanese Religion and Philosophy 152
7.5. Artistic Dimensions in Japanese Food 160
7.6. Moritsuke: the Uses of Framing and Space 161
7.7. Juxtaposing the Artificial and the Natural 164
Readings for Chapter 7 166
Chapter 8 Learning the Cultural Rules 167
8.1. Learning Food as a Child: School Lunch 169
8.2. Learning as an Adult: Social Interaction and Media 170
8.3. The Meibutsu Culture 175
8.4. Changing Tastes: the World of Food Fads 177
8.5. Invention and Innovation in the Japanese Kitchen 185
Readings for Chapter 8 187
Chapter 9 The Art of Dining 188
9.1. Dining and Ritual in Daily Life 191
9.2. Dining Order: the Japanese Course 193
9.3. The Epitome of Taste: the Tea Ceremony as a Food Event 197
9.4. Sushi 200
9.5. The Rituals of Eating 211
Readings for Chapter 9 212
Chapter 10 Japan's Food Culture: Dimensions and Contradictions 213
10.1. Dimensions in Japanese Food 213
10.2. The Economic World of the Japanese Gourmand 215
10.3. Natural Food and Reviving the Community 218
10.4. Japanese Food and World Food: Japan as a Model 221
10.5. Final Word 224
Glossary of Terms 225
References 237
References in English and other Western Languages 237
References in Japanese 245
Filmography 248
Index 249
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