Core Joint Research Project “Comprehensive History of Everyday Life” “Nichijo-Sahan (nothing out of the ordinary)”: What Japanese people have historically been eating
Japan and elsewhere in East Asia (China, South Korea, and Taiwan)
Clothing, food, and housing form the foundations of daily life for people and for the jomin (common people) culture regardless of the period or region. Washoku (Japanese dietary cultures) has been listed as World Intangible Cultural Heritage, but it is difficult to define Japanese cuisine given the extensive variety of different local cuisines. This study will conduct a multi-perspective inspection of the dietary habits of Japan’s jomin (common people). It will examine what the people of Japan have traditionally consumed and will evaluate the merits of Japanese food from the standpoint of other cultures. To this end, a preparatory research period was planned for 2021, with the intention of inviting external researchers to join university academics to discuss preceding scholarly accumulations vis-à-vis the issues, viewpoints, and methods proposed for this study. Visits to the Tokyo University of Agriculture Food and Agriculture Museum and the Fujinokuni Chanomiyako Museum in Shimada-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture, were also scheduled to intensify academic exchange. However, the implementation of the above plans is on hold because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Japan is a country surrounded by sea. It is a land blessed with numerous rivers. A fish-eating culture has existed in Japan since antiquity, as evidenced by the wide variety of fish bones and shells excavated from around 3,000 Jomon shell mound sites throughout the country. Additionally, after its arrival in Japan, Buddhism exerted significant influence on food culture, and the eating of (land) animal meat was shunned until modernity. At the same time, although rice is said to be the staple food of the Japanese people, they were not in fact “rice-eating people”; rather, Japanese commoners were “people who longed to eat rice.” It was only after the Second World War, during the period of high economic growth that the common people were able to afford rice as a staple food. Until then, rice was combined with various other cereals, and wheat, sweet potatoes, and beans denoted common food items. However, empirical research has reported in recent years that rice had long been the staple diet of certain regions and that crops suited to particular regions have become their principal daily dietary elements.
In the context of the present circumstances wherein the consumption of animal meats has proportionally overtaken fish-eating in Japan and consumption of rice is decreasing, the present study re-scrutinizes commonly accepted conventional theories. In doing so, this investigation asserts that this food culture phenomenon includes ingredients, eating methods, eating utensils, and other culinary aspects as the culture of nichijo-sahan (nothing out of the ordinary; lit. daily tea & rice) that is generally taken for granted. Of course, just as tea is contrasted with alcoholic beverages, food culture is also contemplated in the context of every-day and non-regular customs. Reports such as “The Reconsideration of Rice Culture/Diversity of Mochi,” “Physical Culture/Mingu (Folk Utensils) For Food,” “The Comparative Culture of Food: Rice Dumpling Wraps, etc.,” “Daily/Non-Daily Food Culture,” and “Food Culture in the Time of Glocalization” are planned as themes for future interaction among the study’s participants.
*In 2021, the name was changed from “Nichijo-Sahan (nothing out of the ordinary): What Japanese people have historically been eating (foundational research)” to “Nichijo-Sahan (nothing out of the ordinary): What Japanese people have historically been eating.”