Eating-Consuming

Confections assumed different identities when eaten. Most yogashi were about extending the spaces in which they could be consumed. Ever since the military embraced biscuits, yogashi were preferred because they lasted. They could be exported, taken on long journeys and survive the vagaries of the weather; but it was not necessarily easy to make this advantage count on the confectionary market. As late as 1907, Kashi Shimpo expressed disappointment about the drops exhibited by Matsumoto-ya and Fugetsudo at the Domestic Industrial Exposition.[1] During the summer they would melt, and the trade journal called upon makers to conduct research that would make it possible for sweets to withstand the heat. In the West, it noted, consumers would carry around drops in their pockets. They would take them out and munch on them ‘in between work’; but Japanese makers did not have the skills to manufacture such a lifestyle-changing product until Morinaga in 1914. Shortly after setting up shop in Akasaka in 1899, Morinaga made milk caramel that was sold individually based on weight; but it was only when a pocket-sized version entered the market that its portability dramatically increased. Pocket milk caramel was invented to occupy the liminal spaces that other consumer goods struggled to penetrate. One of the product developers, Ogushi Shoji, recounted his visit to the Imperial Theatre, a Western institution, where spectators’ movement appeared restricted.[2] They were forbidden from smoking and eating out of their lunchboxes. Nor did these theatregoers feel they could snack on sweets in view of the nuisance rustling would arouse. For Ogushi, a cardboard container, which contained individually wrapped pieces of milk caramel (kami-sakku), had the potential to penetrate these liminal spaces and liberate eaters from their discomfort. Pocket milk caramel had wider implications than the theatre: it could be consumed at home, in the office and on the train. No longer did commuters need to feel concerned about the welfare of fellow passengers. Milk caramel could be enjoyed on crowded trains; taking it out was easy and caused minimal offence. Similar consumer practices were envisioned for chocolate, which was also wrapped in distinctive silver foil to aid portability.79 It could be carried to cinemas, picnics, zoos and the seaside. Skiers, golfers, hikers also benefited from snacking on chocolate on the go. Even though hot summers imposed limits on movement, the identity ofyogashi as being portable became more pronounced as products like milk caramel and chocolate achieved commercial success.

In contrast to the supposedly liberating nature of yogashi, which supported and extended the spaces in which snackers moved, the movement of wagashi was frowned upon. One of the main spaces in which wagashi eaters, especially children, were feared to tread was the dagashiya. In 1907, Sasano Toyomi, in a manual on raising children, noted with massive concern the extent to which children, even from respectable backgrounds, fell under its spell.80 In one episode, the book recounts how a young boy named Shintaro, accompanied by a female servant, enters a dagashiya to buy daifukumochi.81 Once inside, Shintaro is tempted. Children are panfrying bottarayaki, the precursor to okonomiyaki (a type of pancake), which was still classified as a snack in this period. Such a sight common to dagashiya terrified hygiene-conscious educators and mothers. Eating from the same, filthy cooking plate was one thing; sharing the same utensils with ‘non-respectable’ children was on a different level of abhorrence. Not only could germs be communicated, but uncivilized behaviour could also be brought back home. During a similar period, Hara Seichiro, in his book about everyday hygiene, recounted how middle-class children, with whom he had spent time living, spurned the offering of biscuits as part of their [3] [4] [5]

snacks (oyatsu).[6] After successful pleading with the mother to hand over money, the children - three boys and two girls who attended the prestigious Gakushuin (Peers) school - would walk all the way to a seedier neighbourhood in search of dagashiya. Once there, they would munch on konpeito,[7] potato yokan and flavoured water, all of which, Hara commented, damaged the digestive system; the consequences of which had to be borne when children returned home.[8] Concerns were also raised by schools. Even though the time after school did not fall strictly under the responsibility of the elementary school, Sasano, writing in as headmaster of Kyobashi primary school, expressed concerns that children were bringing in anpan - sweet rolls filled with red bean paste - to school, instead of lunch boxes.[9] One in four pupils, he reported, was doing so. Not only did this engender problems of hygiene - anpan, it was thought, was prepared a day before it was sold so that it could have turned stale by the time children ate it - it also meant wagashi was infiltrating spaces that it should not enter. Caramels were in contrast fine, and Sasano raised no eyebrows at the large number of children bringing them on school outings.[10]

Due to the control families could exert on children, sweets generated fewer fears at home. One major exception was the behaviour of lower class households, which were criticized for handing out pocket money to children all too easily. In the pages of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Sakamoto Ryunosuke, a headmaster at a primary school, fretted about the broader impact of this practice on children from upper and middle-class families, for he could see that well-to-do children could not easily turn down an offer from lower class friends to go to sweet shops.[11] To solve this problem, he suggested, families needed to agree on a course of action. Similarly, parents saw that unified action was needed in relation to snacks offered to children visiting the homes of their friends. In 1914, women’s magazines broached this topic, asking readers how a balance could be struck between hospitality and health. For Shimoda Jiro (1872-1938), a professor of Education at Tokyo Women’s School (Tokyo Joshi Koto Shihan Gakko), the answer to this question was straightforward.[12] Parents should instruct children visiting the homes of friends not to turn down the gesture of sweets but politely ask their hosts to wrap them up. Back at home parents would then be able to inspect the contents to see if they could have any adverse effect on the child’s digestion. ‘Without knowing the child’s stomach condition’, he concluded, mochi-kashi and the like should not be given’.[13] Most parents, it seems, were in reality unwilling to go that far. When friends came to visit, snacks (oyatsu) should be served, but only when the visit coincided with the time when sweets were usually given - at 3 pm. Should visits fall outside this time, hospitality, it was agreed, should be held in check. By doing so, parents could instruct their children to leave before or arrive after 3 pm and thus avoid both causing offence and damaging health. One fundamental solution to all these problems was, however, to create an environment in which children would want to come straight back home after finishing school. Writing in the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1913, Kimura Rineko, who taught at Joshibi High School of Art and Design (Joshibijutsu Daigaku Fuzoku Kotogakko) in Tokyo, expressed confidence that making something ‘unusual’ and ‘delicious’ at home would do the trick.[14] To this end, she recommended simple Western sweets such as pudding, cakes and apple pies. Even here, Western sweets were preferred.

Important to these discussions was, as Shimoda’s fear about mochi reveals, the kinds of snacks that were offered to children, especially infants. During the period under review, child-rearing manuals, reflecting mainstream medical views, generally recommended yogashi over wagashi. In one of the first articles that broached the relationship between children and sweets, the journal Eisei Shimpo observed that one-year-old should be fed wafers, bolo (small round biscuits) and biscuits.[15] Only rice crackers, the journal concluded, were an acceptable wagashi. Nagai Iwao, a paediatrician, went further in declaring that wagashi had little to offer.92 There was a distinct lack of concern, he pointed out, over how Japanese confections impacted on children’s bodies. Nor was there much attention paid to digestion or nutrition. For Nagai, yokan, steamed sweets, and rice crackers were therefore to be avoided. ‘Confections with azuki sweet red beans, sugar, and agar agar, with lots of sugar, should not be given to children,’ he warned.93 What Nagai recommended instead were overwhelmingly Western confections. For snacks, he listed imported products: ladyfingers, sponge cakes, Osborne biscuits, Florida biscuits, rusks and cream crackers.94

There was, of course, scepticism about this general preference for yogashi over wagashi. In 1916, the renowned paediatrician Takeuchi Kunpei (1883-1973) expressed concerns over the extent to which yogashi was touted as superior.95 Chocolate was too stimulating, he argued, and would deprive young children of sleep.96 He thus recommended that children should not be given chocolate until they reached the age of four. Milk caramel, the other representative Western-style confection, should also be selected with care.97 Due to a boom in sales, products were appearing in which off milk had been used. Even so, these warnings did not mean Takeuchi endorsed wagashi instead; his caveat about milk caramel, it bears pointing out, was more about adulteration and less about critiquing the actual ingredients. Sweets typically sold at the dagashiya - regardless of whether they were Western or Japanese style - were out of the question. In the end, sweets that ‘did no harm’, as he conservatively put it, were wafers, cheese cakes and bolo.98 92Nagai, Ikuji no shiori, 172.

  • 93 Ibid.
  • 94 Ibid., 169.
  • 95Takeuchi, Jikken kodomo no sodatekata, 74. 96Ibid., 77.
  • 97Ibid., 76.
  • 98Ibid., 74.

Many of the fears fuelled by the informed discussions of sweets had at their roots the vulnerability of children, especially Japanese children, who were seen to be incapable of making proper choices. In 1909, one magazine reported on the difference between sweets in the United States and Japan, remarking that American children based their judgments on proper notions of health.[16] That stood in stark contrast to Japanese children who would eat ‘indiscriminately’. Not only was the problem about sweets per se; it was also about the eater. Despite the fact that children attracted most attention, adults, especially women, were not spared criticism. One of the first customs placed under the spotlight was the hospitality of serving guests the combination of tea and snacks. In 1893, the Jogaku Zasshi saw no reason why confectionary should accompany the drink, imploring Meiji housewives to ‘rethink this custom’.[17] Above all, it was a health hazard. Snacking meant that the stomach gained little rest; it would be forced to work throughout the day digesting food; there would be ‘no summer vacation, no Sunday’.[10] No wonder, it remarked, why a love of confectionary could result in early deaths: the custom of snacking weakened the body. More importantly, offering sweets as an accompaniment to guests resulted in innumerable hours of useless banter. In his manual for women, Tagawa Daikichiro (1869-1947), a journalist, charged that this custom should be abolished.[19] In the interests of money, work efficiency and health, snacks should not be served. Conversation remained ‘unaffected’ without the presence of snacks.[10] As both these examples serve to show, women and children became easy targets because they were seen to be weak, succumbing to temptation. To become more responsible eaters, they needed to become consumers acting in a more rational manner.

  • [1] Anonymous, ‘Kashi daikan’, 5.
  • [2] Kobayashi, Kashi 30-nen shi, 455.
  • [3] Mitsuda, ‘From reception to acceptance’, 196.
  • [4] Sasano, Kodomo no shitsukekata, 150—1.
  • [5] Small round rice cakes filled with red bean paste.
  • [6] Hara, Doku no hanashi, 269-70.
  • [7] Small and colourful candy made mostly from sugar.
  • [8] Ibid., 272.
  • [9] Waydgashi Shimbun, November 3, 1916, 15.
  • [10] Ibid.
  • [11] Yomiuri Shimbun, September 19, 1909, Morning edition, 3.
  • [12] Wayogashi Shimbun, October 15, 1917, 3.
  • [13] Ibid.
  • [14] Yomiuri Shimbun, September 21, 1913, Morning edition, 5.
  • [15] Ishihara, ‘Byonin oyobi shonoyo no okashi’, 4.
  • [16] Mori, ‘Beikoku no kashi’, 6.
  • [17] Joshi, ‘Chagashi haishi no setsu’, 256.
  • [18] Ibid.
  • [19] Tagawa, Fujin no shuyd, 92-3.
  • [20] Ibid.
 
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