Autoethnography

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

A Deeper Look into Idol Dancing Themes

Chibi Beatz was an incredible outsider experience of a westernised view into Japanese culture. Chibi Beatz, created by the same people who run Yokai Beatz which is held around Halloween, is a small underground “rave”/mini-convention where trinkets are sold and performances are held. It is named after Japanese folklore and people often people cosplay as Japanese Yokai which are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits and demons. Very much like people would around Halloween.

Ellis mentions that “When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience.” (Ellis, 2011), and when looking at it like this and imagining the dark hall of Chibi Beatz with the stage lights shining down on my friends as they danced to Hatsune Miku songs with their friends and fans yelling to every beat of the song tapping their light sticks along as well as calling out their stage names. Ellis basically discusses that it’s all about telling a story, which in turn is about engaging the audience. “Writing personal stories thus makes “witnessing” possible” (Ellis, 2011) Which is why I’m trying to write down every detail about my experiences

The first time and one of the only times I have been experienced the fan culture of idol dancing was at Neko Nation. Which is similar to Chibi Beatz and Yokai Beatz in the sense that it is a westernised view into Japanese culture. Neko Nation featured catgirls, live performances from online music creators such as Teddyloid, performances from idol dances and J-Pop and J-Rock singers. Neko was similar to Chibi Beatz except it was set in a university bar, which as just as dark. The stage was illuminated by stage lights and bright LEDs and I spent the entire night cheering my friends on who were  on stage with the colour that matched their skirts

Every idol show that I can think of is somewhere dark like a bar or hall and the stage is illuminated with bright lights lighting up the dancers. Probably the more famous one I can recall would be Uncle Tetsu’s Angel Garden, which is a Japanese style café dedicated cheesecake and every Saturday at 9pm, Idol performers AGS102.

Ellis mentions that “ethical issues affiliated with friendship become an important part of the research process and product” which is something I will need to consider since all of the idols I am apart of the fan group for and am watching are all my friends.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

An autoethnographic analysis thanks to Ellis and co.

Original post can be found here.

Embarking on an autoethnographic research journey throughout BCM320 has closely followed the process discussed throughout the reading by Ellis et al. (2011). My recent blog post followed the wave of Asian hip hop and it’s increasing popularity, highly credited to the 88rising collective. This autoethnographic research was influenced by my cultural identity being closely aligned to the world of Australian and American R&B and Rap.

Image result for joji

As my understanding of Asian hip hop is extremely minimal, drawing similarities to Western musicians in this genre allowed me to use my own cultural framework to relate to the content I am unfamiliar with. For myself, this further emphasised that music is a universal language. Yet, an important epiphany of mine in relation to Asian artists rapping in English was that I did not acknowledge their nationalities until starting my group digital artefact. Rich Brian and NIKI are Indonesian, Joji is Japanese, and 88rising reflects that R&B and Rap are not limited to Western artists. Since listening to these artists as a result of my own research, I’ve followed their social media accounts and added them to my own Spotify playlists.

‘Midsummer Madness’ is a song by the collaborative 88rising group, which I had heard prior to this subject. I didn’t know that all the artists were Asian, and in all honestly, I didn’t notice the part of the song that wasn’t in English. Give it a listen below:

“Reflexive ethnographies document ways a researcher changes as a result of doing fieldwork”

The entirety of the blog post is reflexive in nature as I have personal ties to the genre as it is part of my day to day life of media consumption, so in exploring a new avenue of this world, the face of hip hop changed dramatically. The blog post also follows the narrative ethnographic format as my own cultural framework impacts my interpretation and how I discuss the topic at hand with others. Ultimately, in analysing and describing my own personal experiences, I have expanded my cultural understanding regarding Asian hip hop and its importance, particularly for the Asian community.

What did I learn about autoethnographic research?

During this process, I learnt that group autoethnographic analysis is extremely useful, as my group members Jonathan and Phillip provide important cultural insight to this topic of interest as their upbringing differs to mine.

Thanks for reading,

Caitlin


References

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & Bochner, A.P, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, <http://www.qualitativeresearch.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt>

SOUL SEARCHING: ETERNAL EPIPHANIES

Since initially embarking upon my study of Hinduism and the religion’s highly spiritualised death and burial practices, I have begun to experience many moments of epiphany. Coming into the research, I clearly had very little understanding of Hinduism or religious death and burial ceremonies, yet here I am 3 weeks later completely intrigued by diverse religious practices throughout the Asian continent.

Autoethnography has confused me, excited me and challenged me throughout the semester. However, it was not until I began to immerse myself in Hinduism that I began to realise how powerful autoethnographic communication can be. As Ellis et al. (2011) highlights, autoethnography ‘expands and opens up a wider lens on the world, eschewing rigid definitions of what constitutes meaningful and useful research’. It is this widening of one’s lens that ultimately defines the course of study, in turn representing the diverse nature of cultural interpretation. Thus, it is within the framework of personal description that I must analyse my own experiences, in the form of epiphanies and reflect upon how influential my cultural framework is in defining my research. It has become increasingly apparent that my experience will greatly differ from others. Therefore, it is important to use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience, and, in so doing, make characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders’ (Ellis et al. 2011).

As previously touched on in my third blog post, my Western, atheist cultural background has somewhat blinded me in regard to global religious cultural practices in the past. However, through further research and engagement with Hindu death practices, I have begun to really develop an interest in the religions profound understanding of life and death. Upon first engaging with the video in my third blog, I was taken aback by the public spectacle of the burning of the dead, however, as I further delved into the cultural meaning of such practices I began to deeply reflect upon how diverse human nature and understandings of life can be.

Hindus hold the belief that supreme beings watch over a cycle of reincarnation, whereby, their soul becomes eternal and enters a spiritual realm, only to return to the physical realm in a new physical form. Thus, it is the idea of Karma that has continually caught my attention. My mum has extensively travelled India, thus I think it has been her description of the Indian caste system that has ignited this interest. Within Indian Hindu culture they socially stratify society into four categories (plus ‘outcastes’).

indian caste pic

Whilst this system acts to hierarchically stratify society and has been outlawed, the conceptualisation of reincarnation within Hindu culture in many ways supports its continued functioning. Throughout the Western world this system is highly criticised, yet within India, society still believes that one’s good or bad fortune (Karma) no matter their caste, will ultimately determine their social status in their next life. This leads me back to the burning of the dead. In Hindu culture, it therefore becomes apparent that the body could in fact be described as ‘the prison and the soul in being held prisoner for the sins of the physical self’, thus when the soul leaves, the physical body merely returns to the elements of earth. This epiphany has proven highly significant, my initial Westernised reaction toward the ‘intense (cultural) situation’ (Ellis et al. 2011), experienced upon first watching the public burning ceremony, has transformed into one of cultural understanding.

As Kalyanamalini Sahoo (2014) describes in his extensive description of Hindu religious practices, the funeral rites are of great significance. However, as I have personally discovered, it is not the physical body, instead the soul that is accorded significance (pg. 32)

Hindu funeral rites are performed at various stages linked to death:

(a) As death approaches; (b) For the disposal of the body; (c) For 12 days following death to transform the departed soul into a preta (i.e., ‘spirit’) body; (d) One-year memorial to assist the departing soul to reach pitru-loka; and (e) Annual Memorial Day in honour of the ancestors.

Also, I have always thought that this system of reincarnation continued forever, however, whilst watching the video below, I realised that this process continues until one’s soul ‘attains perfection and becomes one with the Divine’. This concept is not readily talked about online, thus with further research I aim to delve into it and assess its reliability.

My personal experience thus far has been extensive. Already, I have clearly begun to experience cultural epiphanies and I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in one of the most diverse Asian religions. I am yet to personally experience the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple in Helensburgh, however, I am still planning on doing so and capturing my experience whilst I’m there. I’m looking forward to communicating my experience with you further and can’t wait to experience many more epiphanies along the way.

Until next time…

Reference List:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P, 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1

Sahoo, K 2014, ‘Rituals of death in Odisha: Hindu religious beliefs and socio-cultural practices’, International Journal of Language Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 29-48

 

More About Mukbangs

Although mukbangs originate in South Korean digital communities, they have recently expanded into the global mediascape, as discussed in my previous post (my last post will be frequently referenced throughout this post, so it might be a good idea to check that out first). Despite having a limited knowledge about ‘Digital Asia’ prior to this subject, I had come across the phenomenon of mukbangs on YouTube. Albeit, not the South Korean version, but the Westernised version. (more…)

SOUL SEARCHING

I’m not going to lie… digital artefacts freak me out. A self-professed analytical sociology student who loves to write essays hears those two words and internally screams. Add ‘autoethnography’ into the mix and it turns into a full-blown external scream. Yet here I am, having overcome my initial panic I can confidently say that maybe a new experience will be good for me…

Digital Asia has proven to be an eye opening, culturally immersive subject so far. Personally, I came into this subject with minimal knowledge about Asian platforms or films… or anything really. So why not take this opportunity to immerse myself in the holy waters of autoethnographical research and truly engage with the idea of experiencing a new culture.

One of the oldest and largest religions on the Asian continent, Hinduism not only blends thousands of years of practices and traditions, but accounts for 25% of Asia’s religious affiliation. A whopping 80%+ of the Indian, Balinese and Nepalese populations cite Hinduism as their main religion. Hinduism as a diverse, ancient religion is far too extensive for me to cover, instead I aim to delve into the religion’s death and burial rituals still readily practiced throughout the Asian world and on our doorstep here in Wollongong. As will become clear, my current knowledge regarding Hindu practices is minimal to say the least…

I have always been fascinated by the photographs my Mum took when she visited Nepal in the 1990’s. Captured on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River, they depict the Hindu tradition of the burning of the dead. These images are representative of my first ever personal experience with Asian religious death and burial customs, thus I hope that through personal engagement with these cultural practices, my experience can be further enhanced.

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So where to start? I did what every other curious person has ever done and whipped out that trusty google search bar. Low and behold, Helensburgh is home to one of the most famous Hindu temples in the Southern Hemisphere. The immersion of oneself into an authentic cultural experience is a crucial aspect of autoethnographical research (Ellis et al. 2011), hence the discovery of and plans to visit the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple in Helensburgh will prove to be a fundamental aspect of my cultural experience.

Note: This video depicts the burning of the dead.

My initial experience of Hindu death and burial practices through digital sources has been quite eye opening. The Pashupatinath Temple, depicted above, is Nepal’s most famous Hindu Temple, situated on the Bagmati River in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Culturally, these customs are so far removed from the typical death and burial practices I have experienced in Australia. The burning of the dead in public places was initially quite a confronting experience. However, through further research I discovered that within Hinduism death is in fact not viewed as the ‘end’, instead the person’s spirit is freed, and rebirth occurs (soul searching… (just like me!!)). It is amazing how diverse religious practices are around the world, I have often turned a blind eye to them (being the atheist I am), however, as of late I have started to really become intrigued by cultural practices, that thanks to globalisation and the flow of people, have spread on a global scale. Thus, I ultimately hope to really delve into and understand how life and death are viewed within the Hindu religion, compared and contrasted to my own (atheist) experience.

The ultimate goal of this digital artefact is to analyse my personal experiences and hopefully many epiphanies through visiting the temple and immersing myself in online YouTube video sources and academic/news sources. In an attempt to truly understand and communicate this diverse cultural experience with you, I am considering incorporating photographs and self-reflexivity into either an auto-ethnographic vlog or blog series.

Maybe this digital artefact business won’t be so bad after all…

Until next time… 

– Abby 

 

Mukbangs: The West has hijacked South Korea’s hunger for watching strangers eat online

As I have stated in previous blog posts, my knowledge of ‘Digital Asia’ was limited to non-existent prior to this subject. Though, one topic I am vaguely familiar with is the online video trend of ‘mukbangs’, due to seeing similar content on YouTube by Australian creators. (more…)

The wave of Asian hip hop

The original post can be found here.

I must admit my exposure to the world of Digital Asia has been extremely limited, but upon conversing with a group of fellow BCM320 students, we acknowledged the importance of the rise of Asian hip hop and the artists influencing the movement. Throughout our discussion, we discussed rap as a form of rebellion, cultural appropriation and the translation of Asian hip hop to Western audiences. I was personally first introduced to the world of Rap and R&B through my mother, our morning trips to primary school would consist of a variety of 80s, 90s and 2000s tracks. My own personal favourite being:

If you could picture James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke that was my mum and I in the car, no shame.

Indonesian rapper, Rich Brian, caught my attention a couple of years ago now, and not once did I acknowledge his ethnicity upon listening to his tracks. I associate this with the concept of cultural proximity that I have studied throughout this semester in BCM289. As Brian’s lyrics are (mostly) in English the content is easy to consume and is similar to African American artists that I follow including Childish Gambino, Tyler The Creator, Jaden Smith and BROCKHAMPTON. Brian is also a member of 88rising, a collective focusing on Asian American/Asian Rap and R&B artists, providing them with a platform to reach Western audiences. The concept of a unified collective is a familiar concept, as A$AP Mob approached the scene in the same way representing various African American artists.

Our mission at 88rising is to change the game for how Asian culture is perceived in the West.” – Sean Miyashiro

The wave of Asian hip hop is an important one, changing the face of hip hop as we know it. Western rappers often fetishise Asian culture, and through establishing their own scene, 88rising continues to pave a path for Asian artists to create their own identity in the hip hop scene.  As a result of my passion for this genre, my group digital artefact will focus on Asian hip hop. Being a series of reaction videos, this concept was inspired by Cody Ko’s and Noel Miller’s ‘That’s Cringe’ series and FBE’s ‘React’ channel on YouTube. Our personal experiences and interpretations will impact how we consume this content, and capturing this will display an authentic autoethnographic analysis of various artists.

Thanks for reading,

Caitlin