Taste Washoku to Unveil Japanese Society: Encountering with Wagyu and Matcha

Kae Sekine

Aichi Gakuin University, Japan

Kae Sekine is an Associate Professor at Aichi Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan and teaches Agricultural Economics. Dr Sekine has researched Food Standards including Geographical Indication in Asia and Europe. She studied at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Montpellier from 2007 to 2010 and holds a doctoral degree (2011) in Economics from Kyoto University, Japan. From 2013 to 2014, she was a member of a committee settled by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for the establishment of Japanese Geographical Indication Law. From April 2018 to February 2019, she was hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as a Visiting Fellow. Since 2019 she has been a member of the Scientific Committee of Food Systems Journal. She is a co-author of Investing Smallholder Agriculture for Food Security, Rome: CFS-HLPE, 2013, a report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Safety and Nutrition of the United Nations, The Contradictions of Neoliberal Agri-Food: Corporations, Resistance, and Disasters in Japan, WV: West Virginia University Press, 2016 (co-authored with Dr Alessandro Bonanno), and a co-editor of Geographical Indication in the Development and Democratization of Global Agri-Food, London: Routledge, 2019 (co-edited with Dr Alessandro Bonanno and Dr Hart N. Feuer). She has conducted field surveys on some iconic Japanese foods such as Wagyu, Matcha, and Miso, and so on. that are essential components of Washoku, Japanese Cuisine or traditional dietary cultures of Japan.


Taste Washoku to Unveil Japanese Society: Encountering with Wagyu and Matcha

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Food and cuisine are the ideal entry points to understand people, culture and society of a country. This workshop invites the participants to explore the myths and realities related to Washoku, the traditional dietary cultures of Japan by focusing on internationally iconic Japanese foods, Wagyu (Japanese Beef) and Matcha (powdered special green tea).

The term Washoku is often employed to refer to "a Japanese-style cuisine". However, Washoku is composed of several types of cuisine with a wide range of ingredients, related to history, geography, climates, cultures, religions, customs, and feelings of Japanese people. In other words, it is more than "a Japanese-style cuisine" but the traditional dietary cultures of Japan. Wagyu or Japanese beef is one of the most famous Japanese ingredients often served for Sukiyaki or beef hotpot, a traditional dish of Washoku. It comes from four traditional Japanese breeds of cattle that are grazed with special technique and care in Japan. Kobe Beef is undoubtedly the most well-known Wagyu in the world for its high quality, marbled fatty meat, and believed to be listening to classical music, drinking beer and well massaged by fatteners/farmers.

Matcha or powdered special green tea is another worldwide popular Japanese ingredient. You may find a Matcha Latte in your favorite coffee shop in your city. It is also an essential ingredient to make a cup of green tea in Japanese traditional tea ceremony that is a centerpiece of Japanese culture.

The presenter of the workshop will (1) explain the concepts and history of Washoku, Wagyu and Matcha, (2) provide information that breaks stereotyped images of Wagyu/Kobe Beef and (3) question them to unveil the contradictions and struggles of Japanese contemporary society, including the impact of current COVID-19 on them.

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