By Dr Barak Kushner
Published by Brill / Global Oriental
Japan’s noodle dishes have come to represent “Japan” in the world market over the last half-century. For noodle eaters globally, the word ramen often evokes Japan, even though some foreigners and many Japanese believe that ramen has long historical roots in China and was mysteriously transformed in Japan. We need to look at food history, particularly the development of ramen, to understand contemporary Japan and its transformation into a food-obsessed nation, far different from what its cultural origins suggest. By charting the development of ramen we can see how the Japanese acquired, adopted and invented new tastes and dishes – in contrast to what is usually touted as Japanese traditional cuisine. The long evolution of ramen helps us enter the even longer and fascinating history of cuisine in Japan, charting how food and politics combined as a force within Sino-Japan relations. Cuisine in East Asia plays a significant political role, at times also philosophical, economic, and social. The main point is that ramen is a symbol of the relationship between the two major forces in East Asia – what started as a Chinese food product ended up almost 1,000 years later as the emblem of modern Japanese cuisine. How did that happen and what does it signify?
After the talk bowls of fresh ramen noodle soup from Tonkotsu Restaurant were served. Japanese shochu (Japanese alcohol) from the Akashi brewing company was on offer as a delicious complement to the noodles, a traditional treat from Western Japan.
* The book will be available on the day at the special price of 32.50 euro (50% off the cover price). The exchange rate on the day of the launch will be used. Sterling and credit cards will be accepted.
This event is supported by the following contributors.
About the contributors
Dr Barak Kushner
Dr Barak Kushner teaches Japanese history at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD in History from Princeton University. He was recently awarded a 2012 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship which he will use to complete his third book tentatively entitled, Men to Devils and Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Cold War Sino-Japan Relations (1945-1965). In 2008 he was an Abe Fellow and conducted research concerning “Cold War Propaganda in East Asia and Historical Memory” in China, Japan and the US. Previously, Kushner worked in the US Department of State as a political officer in East Asian affairs and taught Chinese and Japanese history at Davidson College in the US. As a scholar he has written on wartime Japanese and Chinese propaganda, Japanese media, Sino-Japanese relations, Asian comedy, food history, Japanese war crimes, and the Cold War. The Thought War, his first book, delved into the history of imperial Japanese propaganda.