Group DA: Japanese Restaurant Experience

 

While Japanese food has been influenced by other nations, it has adopted and refined these food customs to create its own unique dishes The first foreign influence on Japan was China around 300 BC. This is when the Japanese learned to cultivate rice and used soy sauce and tofu in their meals. Additionally, the Buddhist religion also influenced the Japanese cuisine. In 700 AD, there was a ban on meat because of the heavy Buddhist influence and as a result of this traditional sushi came about. After about 1000 years after the ban was enforced, beef was reintroduced to Japan.

A big difference that separates Japanese cuisine from other Asian cuisines is that they aim to preserve the original appearance and taste of ingredients where other cultures will change the taste and make it so it’s difficult to recognise the ingredients. 

We have all grown up eating the foods of our cultures, making it a large part of who we are. Food is associated with certain memories and time frames in our lives, it brings groups together and can hold very special personal values for each individual. On a larger scale, food can be a traditional representation and an expression of cultural identity. In this day and age, it has become so much more easier to access cuisines of differing cultures. With options of cuisines particularly in Australia growing rapidly, as our multicultural population increases. Within this increase in variety, and the effects of globalisation, there have been many alterations to particular cultural dishes to better suit other cultures.

Autoethnography explores an event or memory that defines your place in a particular culture. It may reflect on childhood experiences—your family, your likes and dislikes, particular events that shape who you are. In our digital artefact, we decided to focus on our background with food, as we all have vastly different experiences. It was an experience for us all, especially Nadia and Lizzie, and even Michelle to some extent, who have had very little interaction with Japanese cuisine in the past.

We decided to present our digital artefact as a reaction type video. Using YouTube channels such as FBE and React, but setting it in the restaurant. This is to allow the video to be more entertaining, educational and relatable for the general audience, and can also be used as a review of the restaurant itself.

We began the DA by discussing our backgrounds and interactions with Japanese food, this was to show how the journey began. Our field site was a restaurant called Goros in Surry Hills. Goros is a Japanese inspired bar with a wide range of snacks and sake.

Part of this DA was to have an authentic experience, documenting our first time trying these foods, with the exception of Eric who has previously been to Japan and experienced a lot of their cuisine before.

Reflexivity is the ability to examine our own feelings and their influence on how we react in certain situations. Consciously embedding ourselves into the research we are doing. This is why we found it so important in the beginning of our video to discuss our cultural background in terms of the cuisines we are used to consuming and our feelings towards trying something that is completely different to what we would normally eat.

During the video we can be seen having quite different reactions to some of the dishes. Eric being much more open to eating everything and loved all of the food, even the moving fish flakes which challenged Michelle, Naomi, Nadia and Lizzie. This is because Eric’s background of trying foreign foods is more open and normalised.

Reflecting on the data gathered, we did considerably well. We were all open to trying new and different foods that were on offer at the restaurant and overall really enjoyed the experience. We’d all definitely recommend going out and having the experience we did, no matter what your background in trying new food is.

Epiphanies could be otherwise described as lightbulb moments, turning points in our experience. These are accentuated by a contrast of culture which is only possible through being deeply aware of one’s own culture and therefore being able to recognise alternate cultural features distinctly. Our acquired knowledge through epiphanies often leads to a changed outlook or behaviour. As Wall (2008) emphasises, the researcher and audience must recognise that “every view is a way of seeing, not the way.” As we experienced our exposure to Japanese cuisine together, the juxtaposition of our different, subjective, ways of experiencing is evident through our varying epiphanies. 

To no surprise, those who experienced the most prominent epiphanies in our group were those who had minimal previous exposure to Japanese food and culture. Aside from previous exposure, Eric also has Philipino heritage and this food was not as foreign to him; therefore he did not experience food neophilia as much as the rest of us. Al-Qasimi (2009) says, Western diets lean on the more “conservative” side. Thus, those with Western ethnicity (lizzie, nadia, michelle and half of me), were more challenged and culturally shocked during the meal. For the majority of our group, our epiphanies came as a realisation that food which we were reluctant to try, and often disgusted by, was actually tasty and enjoyable. 

Lizzie, who is often opposed to pork, tried the pork gyoza and was shocked to find she liked it. This has opened her mind to trying other dishes in the future and possibly incorporating pork into her diet more frequently. 

Michelle was resistant to the takoyaki balls as they had moving fish flakes, however later realised they tasted, “so good”. Now, she will be less likely to judge a food by how it appears, and instead be open to dissimilar foods. 

Nadia was surprised that she liked the ox tongue, a “weird food” she otherwise wouldn’t have tried. This has lead to her being more inclined to try exotic and different food in the future. 

For Naomi, she generally steers clear of anything spicy, but realised that the kamikaze chilli addition to the gyoza was different and kind of nice. Now, she’ll more openly try dishes containing chilli, opening her diet up to a range of new foods.

Eric’s epiphany was quite different and involved other group members experience with the food, not his own. Eric brought into the research predispositions of how he believed the other participants would react, enjoying or disliking the food. So while he sat and enjoyed a meal which he was already accustomed to due to his Philipino ethnicity and recent travels, his epiphany was the realisation that this type of food could be enjoyed by those who may not have otherwise been exposed to it and those who come from different cultural frameworks. 

Méndez (2014), states, “what matters is the way in which the story enables the reader to enter the subjective world of the teller – to see the world from her or his point of view.” Through portraying our cultural background and previous exposure to Japanese cuisine, we hope that we have enabled our audience to view our experiences through our own personal lens. We hope this has also given background to where our epiphanies may have stemmed from and why we felt a certain way.

 

Eric, Nadia, Naomi, Lizzie and Michelle 🍣

References:

Al-Qasimi, N. (2009). Eating with an open mind. [online] The National. Available at: https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/home/eating-with-an-open-mind-1.506371 [Accessed 12 Oct. 2019].

Cwiertka, K (2006), Modern Japanese cuisine: Food, power and national identity, Reaktion Books, London.

Delamont, S. (2009). The only honest thing: autoethnography, reflexivity and small crises in fieldwork. Ethnography and Education, 4(1), pp.51-63.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Foodbycountry.com. (2012). Food in Japan – Japanese Food, Japanese Cuisine – traditional, popular, dishes, diet, history, common, meals, rice, famous. 14 Oct 2019. http://www.foodbycountry.com/Germany-to-Japan/Japan.html

Goldstein-Gidoni, O 2001, The making and marking of the ‘Japanese’and the ‘Western’in Japanese contemporary material culture, Journal of Material Culture, 6(1), pp.67-90.

Holman, S., Adams, T. and Ellis, C. (2013). Handbook of autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: Left coast Press, pp.209-228.

Japan-experience.com. (2017). Gyoza | Japan Experience. 14 Oct 2019. https://www.japan-experience.com/to-know/chopsticks-at-the-ready/gyoza

McIlveen, P. (2008). Autoethnography as a Method for Reflexive Research and Practice in Vocational Psychology. Australian Journal of Career Development, 17(2), pp.13-20.

Méndez, M. (2014). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 15(2), p.279.

Onlynativejapan.com. (2015). 【Food】“Tako” – Japanese yummy foods using octopus. 13 Oct 2019. http://onlynativejapan.com/2015/04/10/【food】tako-japanese-yummy-foods-using-octopus/4846

Wall, S. (2008). Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7(1), pp.38-53.

Yabai.com. (2017). Gyutan: The Tasty Japanese Beef Tongue | YABAI – The Modern, Vibrant Face of Japan. YABAI. 14 Oct 2019. http://yabai.com/p/3023

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