Representation of Food in Japan's Culinary Politics
The choice of foods that are represented as part of Japan’s national cuisine is decisive in this context. Whereas the Japanese government chose to apply for the safeguarding of the New Year’s cuisine, a foodstuff served on special occasions, the activities of the JRO focus on a mundane and globalized food, namely sushi. The elaborate presentation of sushi as a way to re-claim ownership of sushi as part of washoku received particular attention at the abovementioned JRO promotion event in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Globalization of food in Asia is not a new phenomenon, but has accelerated in the twentieth century. Migration flows during the Meiji period, both within Asia and to the United States of America, contributed to the dissemination of Japanese food. With the rise of Japan as a colonial power, Japanese communities in East Asia, in China, Manchuria, Taiwan, and Korea grew rapidly. In 1885, Japanese workers were hired to work on sugar plantations in Hawai’i. By the 1940s, the Japanese population in the United States amounted to nearly 130,000 people, most of whom resided on the West Coast in California. Katarzyna Cwiertka has differentiated between two sushi waves in the United States. Whereas the consumption of sushi during the 1970s and 1980s was a sign of sophistication, with increasing globalization during the 1990s, sushi became widely available in various adaptations as an affordable fast food to a larger clientele from different socio-economic groups. The globalization process not only affected the transformation of sushi itself, but also had an impact on food makers. In sushi eateries around the world, it became common for sushi chefs not to be Japanese by origin but Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Whereas the early spread of sushi occurred as a result of migration, the second wave of globalization created the image of sushi as an exotic and healthy food.