Lee_milligan Japanese Cuisine Essay

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LEE MILLIGAN Japanese cuisine and the Japanisation of Europe Research conducted into both the diffusion of Japanese cuisine and the process of Japanisation, within the context of “Europe”, has been extremely limited. Both areas were combined in order to contribute to an up and coming field of research, with implications for our better understanding of globalisation. By Lee Milligan “During the last decade, Japanese cuisine has become rooted in Europe” (Cwiertka, 2005: 1). theories within the
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    LEE MILLIGAN  Japanese cuisine and the Japanisation of Europe   Research conducted into both the diffusion of Japanese cuisine and the process of Japanisation, within the context of “Europe”, has been extremely limited. Both areas were combined in order to contribute to an up and coming field of research, with implications for our better understanding of globalisation. By Lee Milligan “During the last decade, Japanese cuisine has become rooted in Europe” (Cwiertka, 2005: 1). The overall aim of this paper will be to investigate how  Japanese cuisine becomes diffused within Europe. The conclusions and information gained from this research will be utilised to contribute to an up and coming field of research, with implications for our better under-standing of globalisation. The research, undertaken in the spring and summer of 2005, was concentrated around restaurants and takeaways in three European cities: Aarhus in Denmark, Liverpool in Great Britain and Athens in Greece. In reference to the above quota-tion, the main area researched was that of diffusion, and how within the cases studied, Japanese cuisine  becomes a part of European culinary life. Subsequently this added further to the limited research which has already been undertaken in the field of “Japanisation”, described by Burt Edstrom, one of the few authors to write on the topic, as “a process by which Japanese elements are transposed to, and assimilated by, other countries or cultures” (Edstrom, 1994: 36). The overrid-ing motivation to undertake this investigation was the call for further information to be gathered from authors who have studied Japanese cuisine, Japanisation or  both. Despite the above quoted claims of the only au-thor to have written extensively on the topic, Katazyna Cwiertka, there appears to be very little written specifi-cally on the subject of Japanese cuisine in Europe. She herself notes “the category of ‘Japanese cuisine’ remains largely underrepresented” and that her 2005 article “represents one of the first attempts to place the Japa-nese food boom under scrutiny” (Cwiertka, 2005: 4). In the field of Japanisation, world-renowned Japanese specialists such as Harumi Befu have strongly empha-sised the significance of the theory. Indeed, he goes so far as to note how, “analysing Japan’s experience can make a real contribution to building globalisation the-ory and thereby challenge the hegemonic role claimed  by Western Globalisation theorists” (Befu, 2003: 4). At the same time however, he observes the “need to post-pone theorizing about globalisation until we have suffi-cient data” (Befu, 2001: 4). Overall, in a subject observed to be of great academic significance, a lack of research provided a seemingly wonderful opportunity to both test present notions supported by limited evidence and present the possibility of postulating tentative new theories within the confines of the three cities and the research locations within them.  Japanisation – A challenge to the West Research undertaken with regards to the diffusion of  Japanese cuisine has the potential to add to the limited research and evidence available on the process of Ja-panisation and subsequently the current debates upon globalisation. As noted earlier in the introduction, Ja-panisation refers to the diffusion of Japanese elements within other cultures or societies. As one such element, personally recommended by Harumi Befu as a valuable area of investigation, the study of Japanese cuisine could therefore be placed within this wider context, thus adding to the value of the research undertaken. The process of Japanisation, its definition and history will be highlighted below in order to provide deeper context to the investigation. Elger and Smith provide a more specific definition than those already mentioned when they observe, “Japanisa-tion denotes the spread of Japanese culture in the most comprehensive sense - karaoke , sushi , drama, anime , manga , Japanese management style and industrial products - throughout the world, much as one uses terms like Americanisation or Westernisation” (Befu, 2003:9). This does not however necessarily involve an associated love of Japan or all things Japanese. Every author promoting the concept of Japanisation puts for-ward one distinct notion; that once properly recog-nized, it should be clearly acknowledged as a new and powerful phenomenon within the sphere of globalisa-tion. Also that the process of Japanisation challenges the majority of current theories upon globalisation, which they believe have a clear and unwarranted bias in favour of Western and often more specifically American hegemony. Brian Moeran is scathing in his criticism of those ignoring the influence of Japan within discussions on globalisation. He observes how “with a handful of notable exceptions, most theoretically in-clined anthropologists”, specifically Mike Featherstone, “have ignored the example of Japan”; also that there should be a “shift in focus from West to East, from America’s apparent twilight to Japan’s rising sun”, where we should, “re-orient our thoughts and theories” (Moeran, 2000: 27). As one of the elements within this diffusion process, the study of the diffusion of Japanese cuisine within Europe could add some important in-formation and evidence to the strong claims promoted  by the likes of Moeran. KONTUR nr. 13 - 2006 1    LEE MILLIGAN The Japanisation of Europe Undoubtedly, the main concentration of written mate-rial relating to Japanisation in Europe and the rest of the world concerns the economic Japanisation of Europe, which began in the 1970’s and involved the adaptation of Japanese economic models in an attempt to improve industrial production in many European countries. The turning point with regards to cultural awareness came in the late 1980’s when Japanese com-panies started to invest and buy out European and American assets. The likes of Sony and  Matsushita  started to buy out Hollywood film studios. This then led to the spread of Japanese anime  such as  Akira , the production of English language books on anime  and resultant computer games etc. Japans economic ad-vancement outside Asia had therefore lead to the reali-zation that Japan also had a cultural influence, although it took the actual procurement of foreign companies for this realization to become explicit. The spread of Japanese cultural products increased throughout the 1990s. This led to claims, mainly from within Japan, that Japanese cultural products were suc-cessfully spreading all over the world within the con-cept of Japanisation. In 1997 Denim  magazine published the headline, “Who says Japan only imports superior foreign culture and commodities and has nothing srcinal which has a universal appeal? Now Japanese customs, products and systems are conquering the world” (Iwabuchi, 2002: 30). Many of these products, such as the “Sony Walkman” were observed to be “cul-turally odourless”. Due mainly to their wariness of the Second World War’s impact in Asia, many Japanese companies have often intentionally removed, or at least dramatically reduced, any association between their products and Japan. The negative impact of the War is therefore neutralized. This has been done through such approaches as adopting non-Japanese names like Sony  or Panasonic  and has lead to the paradoxical situation where some of the main cultural forms of Japanisation are often not identified in the receiver countries as be-ing Japanese in srcin. During the 1990s the spread of  Japanese cultural elements beyond the Asian region started to become acknowledged by scholars.  Japanese Cuisine – Prior Research As noted above, one of the “elements” within the Ja-panisation process is Japanese cuisine and its spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Although seemingly of a limited nature, the research already un-dertaken did provide some valuable indicators for the nature of the diffusion of Japanese cuisine within Europe and opened the possibilities of a resultant com-parative perspective. Firstly, the significance of its spread can be highlighted by Cwiertka, who notes “a growing number of people in Europe actually consume these dishes on a regular basis”, thus making them “major genres in European dining” (Cwiertka, 2005: 1). One of the dominant authors on the topic of Japanisa-tion, Harumi Befu, refers to a series of graduations, with regards to restaurants in the diffusion process. The first of these graduations occurred with the initial in-troduction of Japanese cuisine, predominantly in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and coincided with Japan’s economic expansion. Described by Cwiertka as “For the  Japanese by the Japanese”, Japanese restaurants at this time were introduced to provide a “home away from home” for the expanding Japanese population in Europe and thus aimed to create an “atmosphere of nostalgic exoticism” (Cwiertka, 2005: 4-13). In restau-rants containing such items as bonsai  trees and paper sliding doors ( shoji ), Japanese staff wore Japanese style clothing such as kimonos and spoke to Japanese custom-ers exclusively in Japanese. Therefore in the initial stages of diffusion, Japanese cuisine was presented as “authentic” and “exotic”, with an appeal mainly to  Japanese clientele. Cwiertka believes such restaurants are very rare today. Subsequently, “Europeans” apparently started to be introduced far more to Japanese cuisine and have a greater input into the nature of its diffusion. The next stage occurred with the introduction of teppanyaki , in-volving beef and vegetables being cooked on an iron griddle by chefs directly in front of customers. Interest-ingly, this cuisine first became popular in the USA, be-fore being spread to the Netherlands and other parts of Europe after tourists returned from holiday there and spread its reputation. Its appeal apparently lay in its proximity to the Dutch preference for meat and pota-toes, and the entertainment factor provided by chefs who put on displays of knife juggling whilst cooking in front of customers. However, the greatest diffusion of  Japanese cuisine apparently took place in the 1990’s, starting with the “London sushi boom” (Cwiertka, 2005: 16). Importantly, this was again influenced from the USA where sushi  had transformed from being “an almost unpalatable ethnic speciality to haute cuisine of the most rarefied sort” (Bestor, 2000: 3). The reasons for its increase in popularity were apparently its associated healthiness and the fact that it was “creolised”, creolisa-tion  being the process by which foreign elements are altered and adapted to better suit local tastes, traditions and requirements. In this context “California rolls” with names such as the “IBM Roll” became popular in the USA, with the use of locally popular ingredients such as hot peppers. When it first arrived in London, eating sushi  was observed to be a sophisticated, expensive and exotic experience, undertaken in an exclusive manner  by wealthy individuals within locations designed to imitate traditional sushi  restaurants in Japan. Japanese cuisine had therefore started to diffuse to “Europeans”, although only within limited geographical and socio-economic confines. In 1997 however, the whole concept of sushi  apparently changed with the opening of two hip and trendy loca-tions, called Itsu  and the more successful Yo!Sushi . In these types of restaurants Befu notes “thoroughgoing creolisation is the winning strategy”(Befu, 2003: 6). This can be perhaps summed up by a famous quotation from Yo!Sushi's  brainchild Simon Woodroffe who notes KONTUR nr. 13 - 2006 2    LEE MILLIGAN “the way I see our relationship with Japan is, first of all, I don't think we're a Japanese restaurant; we're a West-ern restaurant that just happens to serve Japanese food”(Crocket, 2000: 2). The first major innovation was the lack of Japanese character in the design of such es-tablishments, with the likes of a glass, pine and brushed steel interiors, and techno-pop background music. All aimed at a young and trendy audience with chefs, wait-ers and waitresses being local people dressed in local attire. The second was the food served, a mix of “tradi-tional” Japanese and creolised “Euro-sushi”, with fifty percent of the meals being hot in order to conquer the fear of raw fish. Indeed, rather than look towards Japa-nese standards, such establishments tried to live up to those set in the USA, with such options as California rolls and local British creations such as the Yo!Roll . In-terestingly Woodroffe observed that the customers have such little knowledge of Japan and Japanese cui-sine anyway, that this mattered very little. The next stage was a move to “continental Europe”, with British standards apparently imitated everywhere, including the sending over of British chefs to train local staff, equipment, and even finances. The diffusion proc-ess from the USA, to London and finally onto Europe is seen as very strong by Cwiertka. In the true nature of creolisation, however, she does also note that each country then goes to make its own adaptations, due to specific ecological, cultural and economic circumstances within each. The final phase in the diffusion of Japanese cuisine has, according to Cwiertka been reached by the British Wagamma  noodle company. Their company website illustrates their whole approach by noting, “Wagamma is not supposed to be an authentic Japanese noodle bar” and “we believe that to be a good student is not to reproduce the same recipe as one's teacher, but to adapt reflecting the essence of our time and making it better by making it for ourselves and in our own way”(Cwiertka, 2005: 20). This clearly emphasises the move away from “traditional Japanese cuisine” and the movement towards almost total creolisation, value and convenience, thus widening the customer base. Cwiertka notes that all of the different connotations of  Japanese cuisine presented above are not necessarily in direct competition, but “co-exist, each finding its par-ticular niche in the ever diversifying dining market” (Cwiertka, 2005: 23). A clear lack of available material One final, important point must be made with regards to the lack of written material relating specifically to  both the Japanisation process the diffusion of Japanese cuisine within Europe. The majority of material avail-able either relates to Japanisation within Asia, or more specifically East and South East Asia. In Europe itself, it is mainly directed towards the economic references noted earlier. It must however be observed that within specific areas of Japanese cultural diffusion within Europe, a certain amount of material is available. Ha-rumi Befu has undoubtedly been the major contributor to the subject in Europe and the rest of the world in general, which can be observed by the number of refer-ences related to him in the section above. Even in 2001 however, he observed the “need to postpone theorizing about globalisation until we have sufficient data” (Befu, 2001: 4). Katarzyna J. Cwiertka is in reality the only author to have undertaken any form of detailed empiri-cal research on the topic of Japanese cuisine. She clearly acknowledges that her studies tentative generalisations are made only from material collected on the Nether-lands and Great Britain, which significantly “offer a valuable basis for a more comprehensive work on the subject” (Cwiertka, 2005: 4). Other points can also be highlighted to support this need for further investiga-tion. Much of the research she has undertaken is lim-ited, not only to those two countries, but also to their capital cities. It is also based upon a restricted number of establishments, many of which were srcinally stud-ied in her earlier article of 2000. Only restaurants are described, with no detailed research on takeaways. Her work is also not placed in the context of Japanisation. The other main authors on the topic provide even less detailed, European based information. Befu and Bestor provide generalizations, mainly highlighting American  based examples. Scope was therefore provided for srcinal and valuable research, all of which could at least add to the material on graduations within restaurants highlighted earlier. This paper aims to provide further empirical data, within the context of Japanese cuisine, highlighted by many scholars on the subject as vital in order to over-turn the top-down assumptions of supposed armchair speculators, producing grand globalisation theories with a perceived lack of actual empirical material. Generalisations Various generalisations have been noted regarding Ja-panisation and the diffusion of Japanese cuisine within Europe, all of which were taken into account during the investigation process in order to provide investigational structure and comparative perspective: The views expressed by Iwabuchi highlight one very important factor within the process in Europe, that of creolisation . Some cultural products arrive as mukokuseki , something or someone lacking any nationality. In other cases however they are deliberately creolised by com-panies introducing them or by locals, in order to best fit into their own personal environments and cultures. Befu observes that, “whilst some amount of creolisation is inevitable in any situation, retention of as much “au-thentic” Japanese culture as possible may be the strat-egy for success in one niche, while thoroughgoing creo-lisation may be required in another” (Befu, 2003: 6). He also notes that in different places the creolisation proc-ess can occur in different ways, adapting to differing local requirements and interpretations. Therefore creo-lisation seemingly plays a major role in the Japanisation of Europe, as was observed earlier in the diffusion of cuisine. KONTUR nr. 13 - 2006 3    LEE MILLIGAN Importantly Bestor observes how sushi  has not lost its “Japanese cultural property” , unlike the likes of Sony . He notes that, “Globalisation doesn't necessarily homoge-nize cultural differences, nor erase the salience of cul-tural labels” (Befu, 2001:6). This points towards the fact that even if sushi  and Japanese cuisine in general is creolised, it has not been and will probably not be to the extent that its Japanese identity is lost. Befu notes that Japanese cultural elements have often  been successfully introduced into Europe as they cap-ture a niche  in the market.  Manga , anime , karaoke , sushi , soy  sauce and tofu  are examples. A niche he describes as “an unfulfilled demand which is met with a new prod-uct”. He notes that the risk factor is great with such “unconventional imports” and that the rate of failure is high. (Befu, 2003: 14). He also suggests that Japanese cuisine continually fills a niche in the market, adding a unique element, which is eventually copied by local producers. He also points to the fact that Japanese indi-viduals find it easy to gain employment throughout the world in Japanese restaurants due simply to their na-tionality, even without any specific experience in the field. Befu also observes this phenomenon, noting it as  Japanese national's exploitation of “cultural capi-tal” (Befu, 2001: 9). In a similar vein, he points towards the names  of the majority of Japanese restaurants as being of  Japanese srcin  and therefore being of significance in giving posi-tive valuation to that srcin. A further factor observed  by Befu involves indirect-Japanisation , where Japanese products are diffused and invariably creolized into one region. It is then that region which acts as the middle-man, diffusing the element onto other regions. This was something highlighted earlier by Cwiertka in relation to cuisine. Finally, Cwiertka contends that the “  Japanese food boom  in Europe appears to have  passed the climax of the late 1990's ” (Cwiertka, 2005: 2). Her evidence for this in 2005 is the closing down of a number of Japanese res-taurants and the fact that Japanese food is not the hot topic that it once was. She does however observe that  Japanese cuisine is now an established culinary mode within Europe and will remain so in the future. City Choice As stated earlier, the three cities chosen were Aarhus in Denmark, Liverpool in Great Britain and Athens in Greece. Although theoretically any city within “Europe” could have been chosen, each was selected as it fulfilled a certain number of criteria. Each city con-tained relatively few Japanese citizens, which gave the opportunity to see how far Japanese cuisine had spread with limited influence from a significant local Japanese community. Each city portrayed itself as being cultural centres within “Europe” and its individual nation and advertised itself as having a wide selection of cuisines from around the world. Finally, each city had a differ-ent population ranking within their own nations, Ath-ens as a capital, Aarhus as a second city and Liverpool as Britain’s fourth largest city. Outside “Soya” in Aarhus. Located in a busy street. A very simple design. Japanese writing on the outside. Advertised as a “Japanese restaurant”. It was decided to concentrate the research upon restau-rants for various reasons. Firstly this was one area per-sonally suggested by Cwiertka as being of potential value. Such a restriction also enabled a comparative angle to be adopted against the limited research previ-ously undertaken. Finally the investigation inevitably had to be undertaken within the context of limited time and budget. Five locations were investigated within the three cities. Contact with each was made in one of two ways. Firstly, utilising “gatekeepers”: known individu-als with close connections to appropriate research sites (Merkens, 2004: 166). Secondly, e-mails were sent to all sites deemed appropriate within each city. The resul-tant five research sites were: Soya  Japanese/Chinese restaurant (See Picture 1) and a sushi  takeaway and in Aarhus; a branch of Yo! Sushi and an independently owned sushi  restaurant called Square Sushi  in Athens; and finally a teppanyaki  restaurant in Liverpool called Sapporo . The research sites were deemed to give a rea-sonably high level of representativeness, from which generalisations could be made utilising the methodo-logical approach highlighted below. Methodology With regards to restaurants and takeaways the overall methodological approach adopted was that of “triangu-lation”. This process can best be summed up by Uwe Flick who describes it as the “observation of the re-search issue from (at least) two different points, most often realized by applying different methodological approaches”, with each approach given equal value (Flick, 2004: 178). The advantages of such an approach  being the increase in theoretical generalisability, a  broader and deeper understanding of the research topic, a thicker description of the subject investigated, and finally the addition of trustworthiness and validity. Within this context, five different methodological ap-proaches were combined within the five research sites: semi-structured interviews  with ten individuals occupy-ing a variety of positions, including owners, managers,  Japanese and local employees;  participant observation  within each location, observing the interior, exterior, staff and cuisine; KONTUR nr. 13 - 2006 4
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