Author Archives: dylan999kanji

Modern Japan (Extra Credit)

Ruth Ozeki’s fictional novel, “My Year of Meats,” tells the story of two Japanese women, Jane and Akiko. Jane, a Japanese American woman, works to create an American television show called “My American Wife” which instills American values into its Japanese viewers. Jane eventually encounters Akiko, a Japanese housewife, who we later find is abused. Using alternating perspectives, Ozeki reveals the “modernization” or “westernization” of Japanese culture through the lives of Jane and Akiko.

 

Ruth Ozeki demonstrates the influence of American culture in Japanese society through the events which take place in Akiko’s life as a housewife. Her husband Joichi, in particular, exemplifies the introduction of American ideals in their lives as Japanese citizens. For instance, Joichi reveals his interest in American culture when he changes his name to “John” and begins to use common American verbal phrases such as “kill two birds with one stone.”  This subtle transition of their lives from an older Japanese traditional lifestyle, devoid of any foreign influence, to a more “modern” or American lifestyle becomes more starkly evident when Joichi or “John” forces his wife to cook beef in a similar method used in the American television show. Joichi feels that they can become more modern if they consume the same meals  as American citizens. In essence, John becomes more civilized and a more modern Japanese citizen by using food to embrace American ideas.

 

 

In addition to events which take place in Akiko’s life, plot events from Jane’s perspective also reveal the modernization of Japanese culture. For instance, as Ozeki continues to narrate through Jane’s viewpoint, Jane quotes, “I was hired by Kato to be a coordinator for My American Wife, the TV series that would bring the “heartland of America into the homes of Japan.” This passage from the novel demonstrates how there is a demand in Japan for a more American influenced media and basically anything “American.” The consumption of beef is made out to be symbolic of one’s complete adoption of a modern lifestyle when the show attempts to persuade its Japanese audience to change their traditional diet to a more beef laden American diet. Furthermore, a memo sent to Jane from the Tokyo Office includes , “***MOST IMPORTANT THING IS VALUES, WHICH MUST BE ALL-AMERICAN.” This is a blatant attempt by an office surrounded by Japanese culture, to change the culture of the Japanese American citizens. While this may seem almost hypocritical, it only makes more apparent the tendency of Japan to make its people become more modern by adopting the American values.

 

 

In conclusion, through the incorporation of various perspectives on the events which take place in “My Year of Meats,” Ruth Ozeki is able to portray the “moderization” of Japan or the “westernization” of the Japanese people. Through Akiko’s and Jane’s viewpoints, Ozeki successfully demonstrates how the Japanese view beef consumption and anything of American influence as “modern.”

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French Cuisine in a Ramen Western

A close up camera shot of a French cuisine menu in the film, Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami.  This particular screen shot is included in a scene in which a group of successful businessmen are ordering a french meal from a fancy restaurant in a grandiose hotel.

A close up camera shot of a French cuisine menu in the film, Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami. This particular screen shot is included in a scene in which a group of successful businessmen are ordering a french meal from a fancy restaurant in a grandiose hotel.

I believe that the most significant scene in the Japanese comedy film, Tampopo,  directed by Juzo Itami, is the scene in which a group of businessmen gather to eat French cuisine in a high rise hotel. The director, Itami, is able to successfully convey many central themes by incorporating this particular scene. The scene, during the middle of the movie, essentially depicts the main concepts and social happenings which typically occurred in Japan as a result of its globalization. In addition to the inclusion of this particular scene, knowledge of the Meiji period and the globalization of Japan allows the audience to fully comprehend why this particular scene is of importance to the understanding of the central themes presented in this collection of comical vignettes by Itami.

The scene begins with a group of Japanese businessmen in suits entering a restaurant located in a high rise hotel. Itami continues to include medium shots of individual businessmen telling their order to the waiter along with a close up shot of the menu which seems to be completely in French. The director then concludes the scene with one of the businessman’s assistants giving the waiter an intricate dinner order, leaving the other businessmen gasping in awe.

Specifically, the screenshot in which the director uses a close up of the French menu encompasses one of the preeminent themes of the film, which is the progressive globalization of Japan, emphasizing in particular on the evolution of food. During the time period in which Japan was becoming a nation with the second largest economy in the world, many aspects of Japanese culture were influenced by foreign countries, such as Great Britain, Russia, and especially France. France was the most influential, due to its control of vast regions of Europe as a result of Napoleon’s reign. Consequently, the screen shot highlights to what extent Japanese culture was affected by France.

Furthermore, some of the preceding screen shots in the same scene contribute to the revealing nature of the close up of the menu. For instance, the low angle shot of the high rise building in the beginning of the scene aggrandizes the hotel and makes the audience question why the hotel is significant to the movie plot. The director integrates the low angle shot of the hotel to serve as a parallel to the luxury of the French cuisine provided within its wall. Additionally, the fact that the menu is completely in French demonstrates the grand stature of the restaurant and signifies what kinds of clients it serves. This particular restaurant appears to cater toward customers of high social status such as businessmen and corporate owners. Essentially, Itami embodies this scene into the film in order to contrast the different lifestyles of people in Japan. such as the lifestyle of Tampopo, who can be assumed to have a middle class lifestyle when compared to the businessmen.