Progression of Japanese Foodways
The goal of this paper is to provide a backdrop for Japanese culinary history, show its evolution, and contemplate where the future of Japanese cuisine could lead. The Japanese diet has evolved over the long course of the nation’s history, and has paralleled the history of the nation itself. By examining the cuisine of the past, as well as that of twenty-first century Japan, one is able to see that there are strong links to traditional foodstuffs, despite an influx of dishes from the West. Foods that have Chinese or Western origins have been acclimated to Japanese tastes; and while some changes have been made, there is still a strong adherence to that which is associated with traditional foods, and this is relevant even in the modern era. Rice was primarily a food for the upper classes, and the most important ritual food, but not a widespread staple until recent times. The natural flavor of food is especially prized in Japanese cooking; and fast food is even subject to the gastronomical preferences and ideals. The post-WWII Japanese diet was the first time the diet could be seen as national: centuries of development divided food by region and social class, yet wartime forced these divisions to be abandoned and cuisine became homogenized after the war. Since then, cuisine has changed rapidly and there is evidence that meals are losing structure and centrality. The diet is evolving to accommodate more Western dishes, meats, and convenience foods. Different types of sources, both primary and secondary, from various disciplines support this research. Anthropology, sociology, economics, literary theory, and even research published in dental journals have augmented historical sources.
Keywords: Japan, Cuisine, History, Traditional Food, Diet
Chrissie Tate Reilly
Graduate Student, History and Anthropology, Monmouth University