Survey of last 150 years of Japanese food history, focusing on the stability of the Meiji era, the increasing diversity of the Taisho, the effect of military adventures and the globalization of sushi and Fortune cookies.
Prosperity and Culture• "Dishes that we think of as traditional Japanese cuisine, such as tempura, soba, sushi, and unagi no kabayaki (eel broiled with a soy sauce seasoning) all date from the Tokugawa period but were eaten around the entire country after the Restoration." (Hansen, 161)• "There is no real evidence in the Meiji period of any transition to a diet that included new types of Western-influenced foods." (Hansen 163)
Rise of Beriberi (Thiamin Deficiency)"People consumedincreasing amountsoftea, fruit, sugar, andsoy sauce, and morepeople dined out.The demand forseasoning rose aspeople at more whiterice.... with increaseduse of polishedrice, the demand forsoy sauce rose."
Ichiju Issai• "The pattern for ordinary meals was ... ichiju issai: one soup and one vegetable. ... rice, miso soup, and pickles, but sometimes other simple dishes would be added. ... only during the Meiji period that most Japanese, including farmers, commonly ate this type of meal with all of the elements served separately and not as a form of stew or gruel." (Hansen, 163)
Military Food"Biscuits were introduced during the Sino-Japanese Warand, after the Russo-Japanese War, were produced inlarge quantity. The army also introduced beef, calling ityamato-ni (Japanese stew) to overcome thenegativeassociations red meat would have for soldiersfrom the country. Beer, first brought in from England in1868, was produced in Japan within a decade andconsumed by bureaucrats and the military alike. Afterserving in the army, country boys returned home with ataste for new foods and cooking methods." (Hansen165)
Taisho Era (1912-1926)• Curry Rice• Meat, milk, bread• Bulldog Sauce• tonkatsu (pork cutlets)• More foreign restaurants (esp. Chinatown)
Post-WWII• Hamburgers• Milk• Chocolate• Whale• School Lunches• Wine, Scotch
The Fortune Cookie Controversy• Fortune cookies become popular along with Chinese restaurants: WWII military travel through SF and LA, Honolulu, spreads Chinese food.• Japanese expulsion from west coast in WWII means that only some speciality shops survived, including bakeries, but Japanese food didnt spread.• No real Chinese equivalents• Japanese fortune-telling and cookie-baking traditions
Global Sushi• Vinegar and sugar rice with fish becomes popular in Japanese cities in late 1600s• Japanese restaurants in the US West, but not popular• 1970s, with rise of Japanese economy and health food fads, sees West coast sushi become popular• Spreads to other major cities in 1980s.• New Global Ingredients: mayonaise, avocado, cream cheese, spicy sauces
Sources• Pictures by Jonathan Dresner – http://flickr.com/photos/jondresner• Jennifer 8. Lee, "Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie," NYT, 16 January 2008 – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/dining/16fort.html• Crocheted Sushi by Karin McAdams• Susan Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture, UCP, 1997