Thank you for making this online interview session possible. I was very happy to take part in the project. My interviewer was Leonie; she speaks Japanese so well that I did not have any trouble with communication. And she talks with such a pretty smile! In our online meeting, we first introduced ourselves for a few minutes, talking about our major, hobbies and so on. This initial conversation helped me to relax.
Then we started the interview session. We talked about Japanese food and diet. Leonie asked me some questions: what I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, how often I cook or eat outside, how much I spend on food and so on. Two things in the interview left a strong impression on me. First is Leonie’s admiration of Japanese convenient stores. She said that there are no such stores in Germany. I cannot imagine the world without convenient stores; I live alone and must prepare my meals by myself, but I do not always have enough time for cooking. Second, her question: what do you think about Japanese food in foreign countries? I mentioned California rolls and pointed out that they are quite different from Japanese sushi. Leonie, however, told me that the most popular sushi in Germany is California-type sushi.
At the end of the session, I asked Leonie what kind of German food she would recommend to me. She recommended pretzels, Kinder Bueno chocolate, and HARIBO. She also told me that Germans often drink black coffee. Again, I had such a great time talking with Leonie. I hope that my comments would be useful for her research. I am looking forward to the next chance to exchange our cultures. Thank you very much!
This paper introduces “feelings of authenticity” as an analytical category in the scholarship on culinary globalization and ethnic food producers to understand changes in cosmopolitan foodscapes by transcending economic conceptualizations of authenticity. It discusses how Japanese food entrepreneurs, chefs and food workers making and selling Japanese food in Berlin feel about and negotiate consumer demands for vegan and vegetarian variations of Japanese cuisine. Why are some Japanese food producers in Berlin more flexible in adjusting their menus to customer demands than others? This paper argues that different responses are related to food producers’ feelings of authenticity informed by different personal standards of what authentic Japanese food is and should be. These standards emerge from their personal biographies, professional backgrounds and values. Based on six years of fieldwork, this paper introduces three groups of Japanese food producers who perceive authentic Japanese food differently and shows how ethnic food producers’ perceptions and feelings of authenticity affect negotiations between food producers and consumers.
The summer term just started in Berlin and the method course on Berlin’s Japanese foodscapes is back. This year we are meeting in person for the first time after two years of online teaching and online interviewing. Ten MA students will design and carry out their own research projects about Japanese food in Berlin experimenting with different methods and filming the research process. Students already formed three groups. One group will focus on Japanese sweets in Berlin. Another group investigates Japanese liquor and izakaya. The third group will study food labels. This includes the question of how Japanese food and drink are labeled in terms of “organic”, “vegan” or “halal”. As usual, we start our course with joint interview practice by inviting guests and a field trip to a Japanese restaurant before students do fieldwork for their own projects.
We also continue the cooperation with Seikei University we started last year. Yoko Kawamura’s students will meet online with our students for their very first interview experience. FU students will ask students from Japan about their eating habits, experiences with foreign food in Japan and with Japanese food abroad. For the first time, we will collaborate with the University of Vienna this season. Hanno Jentzsch is also teaching a method course in Vienna and his students – inspired by our project – investigate Japanese food in Vienna. Students will meet online and discuss their projects, give feedback to each other and exchange experiences with fieldwork in the Japanese foodscapes of both cities. This enables interesting comparisons, I believe, and I am very much looking forward to this new perspective.