Cool Cuisine: The Marketing and Perception of Japanese Food in the West

In the past twenty years, the consumption of Japanese products in America has grown exponentially, and the consumption of its food is no exception. However, it is not simply the food that is desired in the West – it is the aspect of Japanese “cool” that surrounds it. In his article “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” Douglas McGray writes that Japanese products are desirable because they contain a “whiff of Japanese cool,” meaning they have something novel, something “Japanese,” that makes them more attractive to the West. This “Japaneseness,” whether authentic or not, is what is desired and paid for in the West as much as the food itself. Through examining the way Japanese food-related products are marketed and perceived in the West, one may see that while the food may be delicious, it is the “whiff of Japanese cool” that strongly appeals to Western tastes. [Read more…]

Katie Johannes

During elementary school, Katie Johannes would wake up before dawn, creep down to the other end of the house, turn the television on low volume and watch Sailor Moon on Channel 7 before getting ready for school. She would then hurriedly get dressed and run to catch the bus, jealously eyeing her sister’s small Hello Kitty backpack as she ran out the door. She would draw doodles of Keroppi, Hello Kitty’s amphibian friend, when she was bored during math. She would run home to make sure she did not miss the beginning of Toonami, the three hour block of anime programming on Cartoon Network. She then would figlunaht her little sister for first dibs on Pokemon Snap, since it was only rented from the video store and the time to reach the level with Mews in outer space was limited. Around dinnertime, she often begged her mom and dad to take the family out to eat at the Sumo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, her favorite restaurant.

She was never the quickest thinker, but it took Katie years before she realized that all of these favorite programs and products were Japanese in origin. Katie, now considering a minor in East Asian Studies, knows that desperately wanting long hair (and secret lunar celestial crystal tiara powers) like Sailor Moon when she was seven may have played a small role in her decision to take Japanese 101 in her freshman year. It allowed her to understand parts of her old favorite shows in their original language and, more importantly, taught her more about the country that was able to permeate her childhood without her knowing it.