One cannot afford to ignore the ideological dimensions the cuisines in Japan have. Rath in his book japans cuisines has put it clear how washoku (traditional Japanese dietary cultures) was added to UNESCO intangible heritage list in the year 2013 (Rath, 18). According to wrath, during the world war 11, there was an attempt to create a diet that was uniform for all citizens and in this case, the washokus predecessor the national peoples cuisine. The question of how the Japans modern food culture came to emergence through the direction of the public and private institutions and the diversity is revealed by the Japans cuisines. For instance, when one reads the book by Rath, one comes to discover how tea was portrayed as the origin of Japanese cuisine while how lunch in Japan, became a gourmet meal. Additionally, one learns how regions that are in Japan periphery are giving a reassertion to the distinct food cultures. The fascinating book by Rath and the essence of Japanese Cuisine book have shown how the cuisine has shaped the local, the national and the personal identity and have continued to show some of the main elements that constitute Japanese food. However, the question is how good is the description of washoku by the UNESCOs list of intangible cultural heritage and whether the definition is agreeable with or not.
There have been requests by various countries in the recent years that wants their culinary customs highlighted and recognized. For such reasons, the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) has moved on to expand a category that is already existing, the intangible cultural heritage. According to the UNESCO for instance, many visitors are visiting Japan and the reason they do so, is because of food. The Japanese style cuisine was registered in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. Consequently, this has led to the people who have interest in the washoku, grow each and every year. UNESCO intangible cultural heritage entails the intangible cultural heritage such as the cultural habits, lifestyles, and traditions. In this case, therefore, the washoku, according to the UNESCO, should serve a major core purpose which is to preserve culture for purposes of future. It is not the Japanese food itself that is listed in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage but rather, the social practices, and in this case, the traditional Japanese practices that form the basis for food consumption (Rath, 19).
Raths book exposes one to the main elements that constitute Japanese food. Washoku is a designation for food and more about customs. Some of the foods include rice, vegetables, rice cakes, fish, and edible wild plants (Rath, 19). There are important foods which are symbolic and eaten in the New Year such as black soybeans that represent health and prawns that evoke longevity. Other dishes that are prepared at home include nikujaga which is beef and potato stew, pork shogayaki which is sauteed with ginger, simmered squash, Udon, simmered daikon, pork soup, and Tamagoyaki which is the the Japanese rolled omelet (Rath, 23).
From the variety of foods, a lot of elements are exposed to the eyes. For instance, the standard foods such as rice consist of carbohydrates. Even though the most source of carbohydrate is rice, other available types of noodles such as Udon provide carbohydrates. However, according to Rath, a point of agreement when it comes to washoku is the importance rice has. He states that a traditional Japanese meal must have either a non-glutinous rice or a boiled domestic short grain and for such reasons, rice is produced by Japanese governments in amounts that are sufficient to feed its populations. Additionally, proteins from meat foods and other minerals are some of the elements that constitute Japanese food. For instance, Rath states in his book that animal protein makes up the average day of the caloric intakes among people and that the amount of beef and pork that is consumed currently is even more than what was consumed in the past twentieth century (Rath, 27).
I totally do agree with how UNESCO defines washoku. Not the food itself that should be given a meaning but rather the unique food culture that should co-exist with nature. The new definition by UNESCO has ended up giving a new look to the Japanese. I believe this is the reason as to why, foreigners are being appealed even more, by the washoku. The new definition also gives a good time for the Japanese to reflect on their spirits and hence, living in harmony with nature having in mind that lifestyle may change as time goes but the spirit that a nation holds will live to remain forever.
The high growing numbers of consumers especially those that have a higher buying power have the ability and the privilege to choose what they want to eat. They most show interest in food that is much connected with particular individuals, traditions, and specific places. Their trends include the national cuisines as they embrace it as an important element that serves a collective identity and not insignificantly as a tool that is used to attract tourists or on the other hand, boost exports. UNESCO definition of the washoku has enabled to maintain this kind of power of the Japanese cuisines. People are showing high interests of the washoku because it is maintaining the culture of the Japanese nation. Above all, it has expanded the washoku by the notion of intangible cultural heritage by including traditions, agricultural practices, and food production that is most appropriate and that derive the Japanese value from unique connections that is between their environments, their communities and their material lives. The registration in the UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage is a top initiative that would be used to embody negotiations and decisions at the international institution's levels.
One cant really deny that Rath has done a recommendable work in his book japan cuisines: place and identity. He has ended up offering a well-informed and a lucid critique of a government led addition, and as Rath states, a traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, the washoku. However, to the UNESCO, things are not the same because the two hold a different view when it comes to washoku. Rath has stated a definition that is vague because it is from the Japans ministry of agriculture together with other official agencies. This, according to the UNESCO, does not state or resemble in any way, what people used to eat before or what they are consuming currently. Instead, washoku is just an idealized dietary lifestyle that focuses on food that has been popularized from the years the 1960s onwards and yet, washoku is meant to impress audiences that are outside of Japan and above all, serving as a guide to domestic eating habits.
In any case, Michael and Jeanne in the book essence of Japanese Cuisine pointed out that the Japanese government had tried to establish a national peoples cuisine, kokuminshoku (Michael and Jeanne, 127). Kokuminshoku was to serve as a way of standardizing the diet and to rationalize the use of the scarce nutritional resources and hence, putting a positive spin on the wartime rationing.however, in now adays, the kokuminshoku does not refer to the wartime foodways, but on the other hand the so called peopless food and popular dishes, for instance, beef and curry (Michael and Jeanne, 127) According to Michael and Jeanne, the national peoples cuisines are not objective descriptions of diets but rather, they are ideological because they are there to present idealized versions of foods that serve both political and social institutions interests.
Conclusively, the Japans Cuisines: food, place and identity book by Rath and essence of Japanese Cuisine by Michael and Jeanne are wise and rich in providing important and corrective misconceptions as far as the issue of Japanese food culture is concerned. For instance, Rath has moved skillfully between the high cuisine and the diversity of the local foodways hence revealing how national institutions, class cultures, and economic changes have ended up shaping what is eaten in Japan and what the majority think about the typical Japanese cuisine. The books have tied up the cultural identity and given an examination of the nations food. UNESCO has defined the washoku and it is evident from the book that one has no option other than to agree with the UNESCO. From the books, one can clearly examine that Japanese Food constitutes important elements and this is an enlighting and an engaging published document any reader will find it worth.
Michael, A., and J. Jeanne. The Essence Of Japanese Cuisine. PENN.
Rath, E. C. Japan's Cuisines: Food, Place and Identity. Reaktion Books.
Rath, E. C. Japan's Cuisines: Food, Place and Identity. Reaktion Books.
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