A Cheesy Tale: A failed story of Japanese Cheesecake

The process of cheese making was first introduced to us over 2000 years ago in 200 BCE. The cheesecake is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece and was ‘served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C.‘ (Bellis, 2017) as a form of superfood.


Originating in Ancient Greece, it is believed that the cheesecake was originally eaten as a superfood during the first Olympic Games.

The cheesecake was introduced to Japan after the Meiji government encouraged the adoption of foreign foods through ‘a recipe book published in 1873 making the first mention of the cheesecake.’ (Thompson, 2017). However, it was not adopted until the postwar period when American forces introduced American-baked cheesecake.

Contrasting to traditional cheesecakes, such as the New York style cheesecake, the Japanese cheesecake contains more of a soufflé texture and can be described as light, wobbly and fluffy. ‘Rikuro Ojisan‘ in Osaka was amongst the first shops that began serving this style of cheesecake, in the 1960’s. Its popularity has since boomed with the introduction of other Japanese cheesecake shops.


The ‘wobbly’ Japanese Cheesecake

An example of this presents itself in Uncle Tetsu’s, which opened in 1970 in Fukuoka. As of 2016, Uncle Tetsus’s crossed the border and made its way to Sydney, Australia.

This occurrence has allowed us to experience this different texture of cheesecake that is loved by many in its home country. The cakes uses ‘Australian cream cheese and Australian butter and Australian milk and Australian egg and Australian flour and sugar…’ (McNab, 2016).

We decided to create our own Japanese cheesecake, based on a recipe we found online. The video below features our experience creating this cheesecake as well as comparing it to the traditional New York style cheesecake and Uncle Tetsus’s Japanese cheesecake. It is a demonstration of our autobiographical experience with the Japanese cheesecake as we utilise storytelling conventions such as ‘character, scene, and plot development.’ (Ellis & Ellingson, 2000; Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). The video also demonstrates the “showing” (Adams, 2006; Lamott, 1994; Ellis et al, 2011) technique that is used to bring ‘“readers into the scene” – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions (Ellis 2004, p.142) – in order to “experience an experience”’ (Ellis, 1993, p.711; Ellis & Bochner, 2006; Ellis et al, 2011).

The only kind of cheesecake we had been previously exposed to was the New York style cheesecake. As described in the video, this cheesecake has a thicker and creamier texture and taste, complimented with a biscuit base. The Japanese cheesecake had a lighter, sponge-like texture with a much eggier taste. Noticing these taste and texture differences was our first major “epiphany” during this process. Ultimately this has provided us with a deeper understanding (Ellis et al, 2011) of the kinds of cheesecakes that are out there and how they differ amongst cultures.

By experiencing the unfamiliar through the Japanese cheesecake we gained a bigger appreciation for the New York style cheesecake, as we favoured its flavour more. This therefore allowed us to ‘practice self-reflexivity’ (Alsop 2002, p.1) and to transcend beyond our immediate self and society. Additionally, this experience exposed use to Alsop’s notion of being ‘home and away’ where we studied our own culture whilst simultaneously studying the “other” culture (p.2).

Consequently, the glass that once divided the familiar and the unfamiliar has been shattered as our knowledge of the cheesecake has expanded.

We were pretty disappointed by the outcome of our Japanese cheesecake, so we were excited to try Uncle Tetsu’s to see if it would differ to our own. After watching a few videos reviewing Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake, our excitement seemed to dissolve when we finally ate it. We experienced what Alsop describes as ‘Heimweh’, a German word meaning ‘Homesickness’ (p.5). We soon longed for the taste of the familiar. Despite this, we had no issues with the Japanese cheesecake as it was just an extension of a food we already love. The texture and taste of the Japanese cheesecake is simply different.