Observations in Japanese Eateries in Berlin

by Zihang Yu

This semester we had the opportunity to learn techniques to systematically observe people, practices and environments and collect the data needed for our research. After class, we were able to put this into practice through hands-on exercises. I conducted observations in a Japanese restaurant and in the Japanese cafeteria at Freie Universität Berlin with two other students from the course. We decided to go to a Japanese restaurant on Kantstraße. The restaurant was decorated in Japanese style, with paintings and posters on the walls, showing ukiyo-e, samurai and Japanese beer. We also saw umbrellas made of bamboo in different colors, kabuki masks and red lanterns with the Japanese word sake on them. Soft and relaxing jazz music played in the background.

A Japanese set meal I enjoyed at one of the restaurants.
Copyright © Zihang Yu 2023

In the restaurant, all dishes were Japanese. I chose the dish saba shioyaki. The dish consisted of grilled mackerel, lemon and grated white radish. It was accompanied by white rice, miso soup, tsukemono and fruit. The overall taste was like in Japan. Unfortunately, I was seated in a small room inside the restaurant during this observation, so I could not observe the customers and staff seated outside.

Eating Japanese-style on zabuton in the Shokudō at FU Berlin
Copyright © Zihang Yu 2023

We also had the opportunity to observe the Shokudō Cafeteria at Freie Universität. This Japanese cafeteria also has many Japanese style decorations. There are bonsai, a painting of Mount Fuji on the wall and tatami mats in the cafeteria and try to give students a Japanese or Asian impression, the ingredients used, the way they are prepared, and the flavors are different from Japan.

The meal I had in the Japanese cafeteria
Copyright © Zihang Yu 2023

Overall, I really enjoyed this observation exercise. During my observation, I mainly focused on the interior style of the restaurant and the taste of the food. This gave me interesting insights into the variations of food and interior design. I am glad that we could put into practice the methodical knowledge we learned in class in a relaxed way with our classmates outside the classroom.

* Zihang Yu is studying in the Master’s program in Japanese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin.

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