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6.3 “Advent” of a Japanese-Western Food: Translation with Displacement by an Entrepreneur

As a somewhat similar process of adapting to the permeation of external cultural influences, it is worth following the transformation of Japanese food culture in modern Japanese society. Bread which was brought to Japan in the sixteenth century was given as part of the provisions to feudal warriors by Han (a feudal domain) at the end of Edo era. Later at the beginning of Meiji era in the nineteenth century, it was adopted as a medical food for soldiers in order to prevent beriberi which was caused by overtaking of rice and the shortage of side dishes. However, Ougai Mori, then an army surgeon who later became a famous novelist, objected to this, considering the history of relationship of Japanese people and their foods (Harada 1993: 23).

Bread was unpopular also among ordinary people. However, when Yasubei Kimura, a former samurai of lower grades, invented, after a series of trials and errors, an-pan, a bread filled with bean jam, like the then prevalent manjū (a bun with beanjam filling) in 1874, it was accepted by most people and became an extremely popular food in Japan.

Bread is “in Japan, regarded as a snack, and is eaten at tea time and was an outcome of peculiar Japanese idea to introduce the taste of manjū into bread” (Higuchi 1987: 260) and “the appearance of an-pan in Meiji era is called the essence of Wakon-yōsai (Japanese spirit with Western learning), because it was successful elaboration to eat Western bread with Japanese bean-jam” (Okada 2000: 133). Soon, “an-pan was offered to the Emperor and was regularly delivered to Imperial Household Agency. Then, salted-out cherry blossom, the Japanese national flower, started to be placed in the hole of the center of an-pan since around 1884, in order to distinguish from the ordinary an-pan sold in stores” (Okada 2000: 133).

An-pan, like gyū-nabe (Japanese beef pot), tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlets) and Japanese curry rice, is understood as one of the Japanese-arranged Western-style dishes, created by combining foreign (bread) and local (an) food and making it like manjyu. In that sense, it can be understood that with the entry of a foreign culture, the existing, local culture is not simply abandoned (Maruyama 1961, 1963). Rather, mediating actors articulate both internal and external cultures and create a new culture with qualities of both (Comaroff 1984). This, in fact, implies flexibility and continuity of a culture in general. Entrepreneurs in non-Western societies facing and adapting to the modern are required to play roles to mediate and even translate between interfacing cultures.

Bread was introduced into school lunch during the time of scarcity after the Second World War, and soon it became a popular meal at homes in response to the wide inflow of American culture into Japanese daily lives (Okada 2000: 126). In extension of this diffusion was the introduction of hamburger to Japanese society.

 
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