Konbini Cuisine: Towards a Gastronomy of Japan’s Convenience Culture

Konbini Cuisine: Towards a Gastronomy of Japan’s Convenience Culture

Gavin H. Whitelaw - Associate Professor of Anthropology, International Christian University; 2014-2015 Visiting Scholar, Reischauer Institute, Harvard University

Monday, November 3, 2014 -
4:30pm to 5:45pm
Room 105, Anthropology See map
10 Sachem Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Japanese food is edible soft power. From “global sushi” to the basics of the obentō lunch box, Japan’s food culture is (again) taking part in transforming the American diet. But in Japan, what is the engine of culinary innovation and arbiter of mass cultural taste? The answer may lie not in artisanal  Kansai kitchens or Tsukiji fish market stalls, but on the shelves of the corner konbini (convenience store) Konbini are a critical focal point of changing foodways in Japan. They are the 24-hour lunch counter for people on the go and a surrogate refrigerator for consumers seeking a bite of the familiar and the new. This presentation draws on one researcher’s gustatory participant observations  of konbini social life to reveal the cultural construction of a cuisine and  the inroads this unlikely institution is making on contemporary Asian culinary culture.

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Japan