Monday, February 23, 2009

"Eat Japanese!"

From Japan Focus: The Asia-Pacific Journal, 6-3-09.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture has a solution for many of Japan's (and perhaps the world's) ills: Eat Japanese. Taking a hard look at the triple whammy of Japan's 60+ percent food dependence, global warming, and bulging waistline that are the product of abandoning the nation's healthy diet of fish and tofu for beef, and depending ever more heavily on imported food, the Ministry offers a cheery nationalist broth for solving many of the nation's problems in this cartoon feature. Some readers may find the image of the idealized Japanese family and home in this feature remarkably reminiscent of Europeans and North Americans. Certainly Japanese, despite recent progress, have a long way to go to catch up with North American or European waistlines. Is it necessary to pose more probing questions such as the reasons why many of the fish that the Japanese diet depends on are disappearing, and why world food prices spiralled in recent years?

Posted on February 7, 2009. Recommended citation: Ministry of Agriculture, "Eat Japanese!"

We discuss this issue on the very first day of Globalization class as Japan's food dependency is a great example of the tension created by globalization. It is not merely an economic issue, but one based upon peoples' tastes and preferences. Should Japanese people go back to their traditional diet (whale meat anyone?)? Will it really solve all of their problems? Is it reasonable to ask Japanese people not to eat foreign food? Is it even possible to ask Japanese people to do away with McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken?

It is interesting to see how the Ministry of Agriculture presents the situation in anime form. How successful do you think this film is?

Here's another film, from Apparently somebody is eating Japanese...


Anonymous said...

Japan won't be self-sufficient until they figure out how to grow meat in vats. Like KFC.

Or make the giant jellyfish edible.

Meanwhile, I don't think it's strange or unreasonable for the government to promote local products: don't all governments do this to some extent? Of course the fish the Japanese is eat is hardly a "local product", so saying "eat more traditional Japanese food" does nothing to solve the problem. It still is a sound economical stance for the government to take.

visual gonthros said...

Thanks for the comment.

Hasn't KFC become Japanese? Take it away and what will they eat on Christmas? Or perhaps we should do away with that celebration in Japan as well... How would it affect the economy? This certainly gets complicated, doesn't it? When does something become a tradition? It seems KFC has been around in Japan as long as eating makizushi on setsubun (tradition invented by a nori/seaweed company). I might be wrong on the date - please correct me if I am. The point being is when does a tradition become traditional? And in this case, a Japanese tradition?

Japanese people eat jelly fish - is there something special about the giant ones?

Japanese government... sound economic stance... really? Should I take my 12,000 yen and spend it on whale meat? Or teriyaki-burgers?

Anyway, I think globalization has changed the idea of self-sufficiency. What is the self now?

Anonymous said...

The jelly fish thing was a joke: Since there have been reports in about Japan being plagued by unprecedented amounts jelly fish (weren't the giant ones especially a new phenomenon?), they could solve two problems at once by overfishing them too.

Should I take my 12,000 yen and spend it on whale meat? Or teriyaki-burgers?

In the short term, you as an individual might benefit from buying cheaper foreign food and saving the rest of your money for something else. But what happens if everyone stops buying local products? The resulting mass unemployment makes the government go bankrupt, that's what. While KFC might be something of a tradition by now, a lot of the money spent at KFC goes straight to foreign hands (ingredients that are imported from overseas, whatever the Japanese branch pays for the parent company, etc.) and does nothing to support Japanese economy. And supporting Japanese economy is definitely a sound economic stance to take if you're the Japanese government, or even if you simply pay taxes in Japan.