Effects of Globalization on Japanese Food Culture and Health

Japanese staples: grains and proteins Food aesthetics Foreign and fast food Current diet and health statistics Hypothesis: Due to the adverse consequences of globalization on the changing Japanese diet, Japan’s population will experience increased instances

In 2000, Asia was responsible for 95% of global cultivation; East Asia for 35% Introduced from China, 3rd century B.C. to Jomon era (1,000 B.C.) Meiji era: modern techniques made cultivation possible in more areas Southern region: more common staples were sweet potatoes, wheat, taro, radish, and millet

Japanese Millet, Echinochloa crus-galli
Cereal grain only grown in China, Korea, and Japan Once a lowerclass staple Cultivated more easily than white rice

The Case for Millet
Kobayashi argues for the frequent use of millet rather than white rice “Considering Japan’s self-suffiency rate of food supply is 40 percent (calorie-base) and the fact that it imports more than half of its food from overseas, changing from white rice to miscellaneous grains is one way Japan could help mediate the world’s food problem” (2001) More nutritious than white rice: balanced proportions of protein, vegetable fat, and starch. Has more dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Soba and Udon
14th and 15th centuries: wheat noodles became popular Noodle carts Original fast food Noise allowed when eating


Buddhist influenced meat-eating pan permitted seafood, led to reliance on seafood 1989: Japanese consumed 12 million tons of fish and shellfish, which only 2 million tons being imported “Eat it raw first if at all, then grill it, and boil it as the last resort”


Contain form of tetrodotoxin, liver and ovaries poisonous Poisonous properties known in China around 200 B.C. Basho, 17th century: “I enjoyed fugu yesterday. Luckily nothing has yet occurred”

Meat-eating banned until late 19th century: Buddhism and Shintoism Richie equates meat-eating with becoming more Western Meiji era aphorism: “A man who does not eat beef is an uncivilized man”


Soymilk, tofu, miso, shoyu Cultivation 4,500 years to 1,000 years ago in China Japanese domestication credited to Buddhist monks Soybeans came to Japan from Korea by Buddhist monks in the 6th century A.D.

Food Aesthetics

Small portions in separate dishes Easy to handle with chopsticks Canon of presentation

Canon of Presentation

Artfully opposite colors Moritsuke Asymmetrical plating and law of opposites Seasonal variety

From England Popularity rose in Meiji Restoration Second decade of 20th century: curry powder made domestically 2000: Once a week consumption Today, most popular form of curry comes in instant pouch


Originally imported from China 1958: Chikin Ramen, invented using surplus American flour shipments Advertised on television, 13 million packages sold in first year 1989: per capita ramen consumption 40 servings; 4.5 billion servings annually

What’s The Most Representative Japanese Food of the 20th Century?
1999: survey of 1,500 Japanese of varied ages Ramen: 78.9% Hamburger: 33.6% Instant curry: 27.9%

1993: 1,043 locations 1997: 2,439 locations Traphagen and Brown’s argument

Diet Statistics
2001: 151 women surveyed; average noodle consumption was 9 times a month “Italian pasta” number one, udon and ramen in second and third Men: Ramen, number one; Italian pasta third. Equating Western foods with Western values?

Diet Statistics
2000: 30% of adult population ate bread for breakfast Rarely eaten at lunch or dinner Timesaving? Postwar schoolchildren eating bread in school lunches 1995: Japanese purchased eleven billion dollars worth of American foods, more than any other country

Dietary Fiber Intake
Ministry of Health recommends a daily intake of 20-25 grams for adults 1952: average intake was 20.5 grams 1970: average intake was 14.9 grams 1998: average intake was 15 grams Nakaji, et al.: “Lack of fiber intake is thought to be a factor in

Life Expectancy
WHO, 2003: 78 years for males, 85 years for females Highest in the world for over 30 years 2004: Kobayashi says life expectancy is due to those born before 1920 and have

Health Trends
Japan as an example of the connection between dietary fats and diseases Ministry of Health, 2004: ½ have lifestyle-related diseases, 1/3 allergic reactions, 1/5 obese 1 in 6 adults have diabetes or are at-risk for developing, includes men and women in their 30’s

Food as a commodity Globalization of diet Homogeneity of food products Health effects could be reduced by consuming a more traditional diet