Post-Fukushima Food Education and Food Safety
Eating School Lunches Together After the Fukushima Accident
Aya H Kimura
After the Fukushima nuclear accident took place in March 2011, confusion ensued as to the health and environmental impacts of radiation exposure. Radiation science is riddled with uncertainty but one aspect that scientists agree upon is that children are generally more vulnerable to radiation contamination than adults with the increased probability of leukaemia, and thyroid, skin, breast, and brain cancers. One might imagine that when parents of school-age children voiced their apprehension about possible contamination of school lunches, their concern would be considered legitimate and swift action would ensue. However, the post-Fukushima accident saw a different dynamic. The authorities seemed rather unwilling to recognize the possibility of contamination, even after the discoveries of contaminated vegetables. The government maintained that, to quote the words of the Minister of Education, Nakagawa Masaharu, ‘There is no impact from the accident on school lunches for now.’ School administrators were also far from responsive to the groups of parents raising concerns. The worried parents were rather seen as overreacting, or worse, fanning baseless fears of radiation when Japan was facing one of its greatest national crises.
This chapter explores the contexts that triggered such harsh criticism of school lunch movements emerging after the Fukushima accident by situating school lunch at the intersection of gastronationalism, disaster, and gender politics in contemporary Japan. Gastronationalism refers to the practice of nation-making that takes food as a symbol of national belonging and pride. Food-nation linkage is not a recent phenomenon and in fact, food has been a key component in cultural projects associated with nation-building. The concept of gastronationalism particularly focuses on how the link between nation and food is played out in the context of globalization and expanding international trade with food. With the acceleration of economic globalization, increasing volumes of food are traded across national borders. Nevertheless, the market is institutionalized in such a way that it privileges claims of national and cultural distinctions. The concept of gastronational- ism then captures the complex dynamics between global marketplace, nation-building, and foodways in the contemporary era.
Existing studies on gastronationalism have not explicitly dealt with its gender implications. Whereas this chapter’s immediate focus is on the post-Fukushima school lunch programmes, it also explores how gender ideologies intersect with gastronationalism.
-  Nihon Keizai Shimbun, ‘Nosakubutsu shukka teishi’.
-  DeSoucey, ‘Gastronationalism’.
-  Ibid.; Mincyte, ‘Unusual Ingredients’.