As mentioned at the beginning of the quarter, meat-eating was being promoted as one of the measures to develop Japan as a modernized nation during the Meiji Period. Yet, the relationship between eating meat and modernization or westernization did not only exist in the past, but also in the present days. My Year of Meats is a novel about the experience of Jane Takagi Little as the producer of “My American Wife ”, a TV cooking show which promotes American meat in Japan and this story points out how meat is related to the western cultures and “being modern”.
Looking at the story of Akiko, one of the viewers of “My American Wife”, eating meat is one of the ways for her family to adapt a “modern” lifestyle. Akiko’s husband, Joichi requires her to learn to cook meat and calls his “modern name”, John (p.21). These changes in their lifestyles, no matter the habit of eating meat or the use of new name, are all closely related to western cultures. Western cultures have the habit of consuming meat for a long time, but not in the Japanese culture until the Meiji Period. Besides that, the new “modern” name that Joichi uses is also a western first name. These show Joichi’s admiration towards the western cultures and his desire of living in a western and modern way. In order to live in a “modern” way, the consumption of meat is essential for Joichi.
Moreover, My Year of Meats points out the stereotypes that Japanese have on meat and western cultures. In the memo given to Jane for creating “My American Wife”, meat and especially beef is considered as a necessary element to represent the American culture (p.9-10). This shows that in Japanese’s mind, eating meat is an important part of the western cultures. Therefore, this stereotype helps explaining why Joichi consider eating meat as a way to show he is “modern”.
Apart from the relationship of meat-eating and being modern, My Year of Meats also explains how meat relates to a desirable life style. As stated in the researches done by the staff of “My American Wife”, Japanese wives do not receive much concern from their husbands (p.12) and they believe that American husbands are generous and docile (p.13). Due to these images of American husband in Japanese wives’ minds, the production team of “My American Wife” tries to relate meat-cooking with the image of an ideal partner (p.13). This shows that meat is not only a symbol of “being modern”, but more importantly, it also represents the desirable lifestyle.
All in all, from My Year of Meats, a novel published in the late the 20th century, readers can see that the belief that meat-eating is closely related to “being modern” or a desirable lifestyle is still affecting the Japanese society.
Ozeki, Ruth. (1998). My Year of Meats. New York: Viking.