East Asian Languages and Cultures | Food and Culture in Postwar Japan
E350 | 1595 | Key

Food not only sustains the body and revives the spirit; it also
provides insight into the culture it feeds.  Using food as the
organizing theme, this course will examine the literature and
culture of postwar Japan in its social transformation from the early
postwar years of hunger and deprivation to the “gourmet boom” of the
present-day culture of affluence and abundance.  Readings in
literature, history, and anthropology will focus on those aspects of
the postwar Japanese experience that have a bearing on food:  the
food shortages that followed its defeat in World War II, how
economic growth impacted the family and its consumption habits, the
role of the Japanese housewife in the home and in society, and the
centrality of rice in the construction of national identity.  We
will also explore the universal theme of “food consumption as sexual
union” by examining how Japanese writers make use of food-related
imagery in their representations of gender, sex, and love.  We will
conclude with a discussion of Japanese food aesthetics and the
popular aestheticization of food in contemporary Japan.

Making primary use of short stories and novels in which issues
related to food are dominant, and supplemented with film, anime,
manga, and TV shows, we will consider how these works expand our
sense of what it means to eat, to desire, and to consume, and how
the metaphor of food as culture can be used to provoke a larger
conversation about social change.  Some adventurous eating will be