Author Archives: lindachan2013

History Repeating Itself

           The Cove is a documentary that analyzes and questions the dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan. The primary speakers are Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer, and Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) activist/director of this film Louis Psihoyos. This film is produce to stop, educate, and convince the audience the serious problem called dolphin slaughter/hunting/capturing. The dolphins are driven into a cove that is enclosed with nets and lines, to keep the dolphins inside.  Fishing companies sells live show dolphins for to aquariums, museums and other sea/ocean park, and kill off the remaining dolphins to sell their meat. This documentary explains the health risks that are part of dolphin meat and how cruel it is not only the process of capturing these animals, but also the killing of them. In The Cove, dolphin meat represents not only the cruelty treated to these animals, but the serious health risk it is to humans that consume it.

Dolphin meat is extremely high in mercury content.

Dolphin meat contains 2000ppm of mercury compared to the 0.4 ppm recommended

During the film, the audience learns that dolphin meat is highly toxin, having extreme levels of mercury, higher than what is recommend by the health researchers and are a serious health risk to humans. The high levels of mercury found in dolphin meat can lead to something very similar to the Minamata disease that was caused by the mercury found in fish and shellfish. In one scene, Tetsuya Endo, researcher at Health Science University of Hokkaido, tested a piece of dolphin meat bought in a local grocery market in Taiji and discovered that dolphin contain 2000ppm (per part million) of mercury compare to the 0.4 ppm recommended. This amount of mercury could cause another epidemic like the Minanmata disease all over again. Many of the local fishermen deny or don’t want to know about this fact.

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Local Tokyo Citizen surprise by the fact that dolphin are being eaten

Many of the caught dolphins are not sold as live show dolphins, but are killed for their meat. There is no logical explanation to explain why people would want to sell dolphin meat given the health issues, yet fishermen argue it is because it is their tradition to hunt, kill, and sell dolphin meat. Well, in the film we see O’Barry asking many citizens in major Japanese cities, such as: Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hokkaido, yet no one even knew that there are people out there eating dolphin meat. In Japan, dolphin meat is considered as undesired or lower class meat, yet these fishermen in Taiji kill 25,000 dolphins every year. Apparently, these dolphin meats are sold off as whale meat, according to OPS members when they did a DNA test of meat they bought in the grocery market. These fishermen are selling meat that will make people become sick and still argue that it is a part of their ‘tradition’ when most of the population doesn’t even know that people even eat dolphins.

When many ask why dolphin meat is consumed, they were answered that it was Japanese culture/tradition, and that dolphins are consuming too much fish—that these ‘pest’ need to be taken care of. The film has proven that it is not dolphins that consume too much fish, but humans eating/consuming too much fish that it is damaging the oceanic eco-system leading to the result of less fish. Yet, the government and the IWC do not acknowledge the fact that the consumption of dolphin meat will lead to serve health problems, and uses excuses such as tradition or less fish to continue hunting these animals.

Fishermen catching dolphins

Fishermen catching dolphins

The capturing of dolphins is a cruel and inhumane as well as the killing of them. Fishermen uses loud noise, which cause panic and distress in dolphins given that they use sound as their primary sense, to basically trap these dolphins in an enclosed space. Then, once the live show dolphins are picked, they will kill off the remaining dolphins. In one scene, we can see a dolphin swimming to shore bleeding and basically running for its life until it eventually bled out. This method of capture and killing is inhumane to the animals, and could be considered as animal torture. Yet, these fishermen for their profits refuse to admit to these facts and continue to deny that any of this is happening or true.

The purpose of this film is to educate the public about these cruelties towards dolphins and the health risk associated with dolphin meat consumption due to the high levels of mercury it contains. The Cove promotes the stopping of the capturing of dolphins and brings up points that undeniably shocking to the world on a global scale. Yet, the refusal of both the Japanese government and fishermen are both very upsetting, this helps the audience understand just because we don’t hear about it does not mean it does not exists. That people need to stand up and say something to make a difference and help others learn about what is really going on in the world , just like Ric o’Barry, Louis Psihoyos and their crew, because that is how changes happen by people out there making a difference.

Symbolic Food

The traditional folklore of the famous “Peach-Boy” or Momotaro is wildly used in many children’s books and animation. Some of the popular anime have mini episodes where characters reenact the Momotaro story, though not very authentic reenactment. The story about Momotaro is about a boy who is born form a peach and goes off on a journey to defeat the ogres in Ogres’ Island, with a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant as his comrades, then goes back home to his adoptive parents, and elderly couple, after completing his quest. Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro is a re-telling of the traditional folklore, while Mitsuyo Seo’s animation Momotaro’s Sea Eagle is more of modernized reenactment of the battle in Ogres’ Island. Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s film Minamata: The Victims and Their World shows a journey very similar to Momotaro’s journey against the ogres, and the film even makes references and the protestors wear a head band similar to Momotaro’s as well. In these three textual/visual media, food serves as a unifier to form communities of family, comradeship, and rebellion because it represents certain emotions that lead to the formation of families, comrades, and resistance. These emotions lead to the formation of communities because these are emotions that bonds people to be together.

Old Man and Old Woman Making Millet Dumplings for Momotaro's Journey.

Old Man and Old Woman Making Millet Dumplings for Momotaro’s Journey.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro, food represents love, affection, care, of a family because the motive in giving and preparing food lead to the formation of a family and strengths the relationship in a family. For example, when the Old Woman first sees the large peach she says “I expect it would be very sweet eating! I will go pick it up at once and give it to my Old Man as a present—that will be the thing to do.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.11) In this scene, the peach represents the Old Woman’s love and affection for her husband because her first thoughts are not to keep the peach for herself, but to give to her husband as a gift. This selfless thought of the Old Woman towards the Old Man is called love because when you love someone you will put them before yourself. This love the Old Woman has for the Old Man is precisely what forms a community called family. Also, after Momotaro’s initial meeting with the elderly couple, Sazanami writes “this child came to be brought up as their own, and as he was born from a peach, the name ‘Peach-Boy’ was given to him, and all the care which love could give was given to him.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.16) The peach is in a sense the vessel that brought the Peach-Boy and the old couple together. The peach brought these three characters together to form a family, and without the peach, which gave birth to Momotaro, there would be no son for the Old Man and Woman to love and care for. Therefore, the peach is the unifier to this family because it was the vessel that creates the meeting between Momotaro and the elderly couple. As Momotaro prepares to leave on his journey, the Old Man and Old Woman prepares a “suitable food for a warrior on a journey” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.21), which are millet dumplings. Though the Old Man was surprised by Peach-Boy’s request to go defeat the ogres in Ogres’ Island, the Old Man gives Peach-Boy his blessings and prepares food for him for the trip. The millet dumplings are the result of the Old Man and Old Woman’s hard work because to make the dumplings that had to beat the grains in a big stone mortar, like in the picture above. The Old Man and Old Woman are very old, with the woman being sixty years old, making the millet dumplings must be very difficult for them, yet they make it not for the purpose of feeding Momotaro because if they were worried about Momotaro’s hunger the elderly couple could have given Momotaro some money to buy food. The Old Man and Old Woman made the millet dumplings out of love and wanting to send off their son with a meal made with the love of a parent. Making the dumpling could be the very last thing that the elderly couple can do for Momotaro and with these dumplings are their love and hope that Momotaro will have a safe journey. These dumplings symbolizes this love and wich for Momotaro’s safe return unifies Momotaro, the Old Man, and the Old Woman as a family and solidifying their bond as a family until they meet again.

Momotaro giving the Spotted Dog, Monkey, and Pheasant each half of a dumpling.

Momotaro giving the Spotted Dog, Monkey, and Pheasant each half of a dumpling.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro and Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, food symbolizes emotions such as kindness and happiness which unifies a group of individuals into become comrades. In Sazanami’s Momotaro, Momotaro gives the Spotted Dog “half-a-one” of the millet dumplings the elderly made for him, which he describes as “the best millet dumplings in Japan.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.25) The dumplings in this scene symbolize kindness because Momotaro gave half of a millet dumpling to the hungry Spotted Dog which attacked Momotaro in the first place. Although the Spotted Dog wanted to join Momotaro on his quest before receiving the dumpling, this dumpling solidifies the bond between Momotaro and the Spotted Dog because by sharing a meal together they become friends/comrades, instead of just acquaintances. When Momotaro meet the Monkey, Momotaro said “in consideration of your good intentions, I will give you half of one the best millet dumplings in Japan, and you may follow.” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.28)  The dumpling again represents kindness because though the monkey came to follow Momotaro on his journey, Momotaro gives him half of a dumpling as a sign that he accepts the Monkey as a comrade before answering the Monkey’s request. Momotaro did not have to offer his dumplings to the Monkey, but he did it to show that he accepts the Monkey because you truly become friends/comrades with someone you shared a meal with. Again, Momotaro gives half a dumpling to the Pheasant when they first meet. (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.30) Though Momotaro seeked the Pheasant and made the Pheasant join him, Momotaro offered the Pheasant half of a dumpling as a sign that they are now comrades.

Monkey eating onigiri at the celebration after the battle

Monkey eating onigiri at the celebration after the battle

In Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, after the monkey, dog and bird came back there was a celebration for the success of the attack on Ogres’ Island. The rabbit gave the monkey a rice ball to eat during this celebration. The rice ball, or onigiri, symbolizes the happiness that the other animals feel not only for the victory but for the safe return of the monkey, dog, and bird after everyone thought they were dead. This happiness makes the bonds between comrades even stronger because this happiness proves that your comrades care about you. This celebration with food and drinks symbolizes that bond between comrades because if it was for the strong team work and trust these animals have for each other, they would not make a feast to celebrate the accomplishment and safe return of the animals in the fighter planes.

In Sazanami’s Momotaro and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata, food symbolizes suffering which helps unify a group of individuals to become a community of resistance. Suffering is an emotion that can cause people to either crumble or rise to an occasion, in both the text and the film, Momotaro and the protestors rise to the occasion, creating a group that resists the ‘oni’ or ogre. In Sazanami’s Momotaro, Momotaro asks his father, Old Man, for permission to go on a journey to Ogres’ Island to defeat the ogres that “take people and eat them!” (Sazanami, Momotaro, pg.18) Momotaro, who is now fifteen, feels that Japan, as a country, is suffering at the hands of the ‘oni’ or ogres because they see humans as food and seize all the humans’ treasures. In this scene the food is humans because that is what the ogres eat and what makes humans suffer because like all the animals, humans are now on the menu for ogres. This suffering causes Momotaro to want to be the hero that rescues Japan and return the treasure, so he goes off on a journey where he will meet with a Spotted Dog, a Monkey, and a Pheasant, and create a group of resistance against the ogres and fight back.  Minamata

In Tsuchimoto’s film, fish and shellfish contain mercury compounds that cause the Minamata disease cause major health issues where very few patients have a full recovery and most surviving victims suffer the basic symptoms. The fish and shellfish in this case are the food which symbolizes suffering because many fishermen and their families suffered because of these infected fishes and shellfish. The victims did not just wallow up in their suffering, but rose to the occasion and fought for what was right. They gathered a huge amount of supporters and protestors and marched their way to Osaka to prove that the Minamata disease is real. They used this suffering as a motivation to push forward just as Momotaro did. The food in both the text and the film symbolized suffering, but lead to the unification of groups that resistant to continue suffering and fought back with all their strength.

In conclusion, the foods in Sazanami’s Momotaro, Seo’s Momotaro’s Sea Eagle, and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata symbolize emotions that unify groups of individuals into a family, comrades, or a group of resistance. These emotions are love, affection, care, kindness, happiness, and suffering. Emotions of love, affection, care leads to the formation of a family because that is what a family is built on. Emotions of kindness and happiness form bonds of comradeship because these emotions are what begins and strengths the relationship between comrades. Although suffering is a negative emotion, it can be the motivation that leads to formations of a resistance group that protest and fights for what their members believe are right. Though these three media are depict and re-tell that traditional folklore Momotaro differently, they all show that food is an important unifier of communities.

 

Obsessions with the Exotic

Tanizaki Jun’ichirō’s “The Gourmet Club” is about five individuals whose desire for food leads them to a quest to finding a “symphony of foods! An orchestral cuisine!” (104). However, their desire for food takes a turn for the worst and turns into obsession for food that “their sole matter of concern from the moment the opened their eyes in the morning” (101) is what they are going to eat tonight. This obsession soon leads to a contest between the club members to see who can discovery a cuisine or food “whose flavors would make the flesh melt and raise the soul to heaven” (104). Their obsession with food highlights this obsession with the exotic in “The Gourmet Club” because their obsession with food is only satisfied with exotic dishes such as “Pigeon-Egg Hot Springs” (139), “Butterfly Broth” (139), etc.

The informal president Count G.’s quest for “an orchestral cuisine” (104) leads him to this Chinese Club where they “[enjoy] real Chinese food as they [listen] to that intoxicating music” (111).  He deems the food in this Chinese club to be delicious because it is authentic unlike the Chinese restaurants he and his club members went to. It is this authenticity that he craves because “he’d long suspected that such authentic Chinese food was precisely the ideal cuisine the members of the Gourmet Club were dreaming about” (112). His obsession with food leads him asking for the leftovers of this Chinese club’s meal because “he could hardly leave the place without at least a spoonful or two for himself” (120). This highlights Count G.’s obsession for exotic because he wants authentic Chinese cuisine even if it is to eat the leftovers of someone else. His obsession with food has literary overtake him because he says “when it comes to food, I lose control of myself, forget all commonsense!” when addressing the president of the Chinese Club. Count G.’s obsession to finding the ideal cuisine leads him to seek out authentic Chinese cuisine to satisfy his craving for delicious food. The authentic Chinese dishes are the same exotic dishes that satisfy the members of the Gourmet Club because Chinese cuisine is a foreign cuisine in Japan; therefore, an exotic cuisine in the food industry of Japan.

In conclusion, the Gourmet Club’s obsession with food leads them to search out exotic dishes to fulfill the hunger. In the end, the menu for that night’s Gourmet Club meeting was “Deep-fried Woman, Korean Style” which highlights just how much this obsession for food is also an obsession for the exotic because this dish is not “literally the flesh of a woman, deep-fried as tempura” (138), but is the tempura robe that clung to a beautiful girl’s flesh, who wearing this robe looked like a Chinese fairy, on a towel in the center of the table (138).  This obsession with food which leads to this kind of exotic method of consuming it gives the text a sense that this obsession will only lead to “raving lunacy or death” as Tanizaki Jun’ichirō ends “The Gourmet Club” with these exact words.

Work Cited

Tanizaki, Jun’ichiro. “The Gourmet Club.” The Gourmet Club: A Sextet, trans. Ed. Anthony H. Chambers and Paul McCarthy. Tokyo; London: Kodansha, 2001. 99-140. Print.

Tampopo: Combination of Cultures

The Western influence of Japanese food is an important fact that is showcase throughout Itami Juzo’s Tampopo. I believe the most important scene in Tampopo is when Tampopo goes out to place her old ramen flag outside of her new restaurant because this scene really depicts the influence that Western culture has had on Japanese cuisine from the high class French restaurants shown in the beginning of the film to a humble ramen shop next to the road. However, the most important fact is that despite the Western influences, Japanese cuisine or in this case a simple bowl of ramen incorporates aspects of Western culture but is still authentic.

Tampopo putting up her old ramen flag outside her new restaurant.

Tampopo putting up her old ramen flag outside her new restaurant.

The most noticeable change to Tampopo’s restaurant is the design and structure of the shop both exterior and interior. From the exterior, the audience could tell that Tampopo’s restaurant is model after French cafes/restaurants with the fancy logo/writing of the restaurant’s name to the design of the roof. Also, unlike the middle of the Tampopo, where Goro writes Tampopo’s new restaurant’s name “タンポポ” (Tampopo) in Katakana, a component of Japanese writing system, it is now written in English in fancy gold letters. Yet, Tampopo putting up her old ramen flag shows that although she is adapting/incorporating Western idea’s into her restaurant, she is still true to the Japanese aspects of her restaurant. This same flag that is shown in the beginning of the film in Tampopo’s restaurant and her new one indicates that Tampopo’s ramen stays true to its Japanese culture instead of complete emulating Western cuisines. The exterior of Tampopo’s store symbolizes how modern Japanese culture is a combination of both Japanese and Western ideals how these things could coexist instead of one over powering the other. Tampopo’s store has the design of a French restaurant, yet the traditional old ramen flag symbolizes just how much modern Japanese cuisine/culture is a mixture of both Western modernism and traditional Japanese culture. That being one doesn’t mean you lose the other.

Tampopo staring to serve customers as they walk in.

Tampopo staring to serve customers as they walk in.

The interior of Tampopo’s store has been remodel to look similar to any other ramen shop instead with aspects of Western ideas here and there. For example, how bright the room is compare to Tampopo’s old restaurant, the cash register at the corner, the frames of paper on the wall, that is what I think food certifications which is usually found in stores now a days, the wooden counter tops, and even the Tampopo’s chief’s outfit are aspects of Western ideas in her store.  These items help make Tampopo’s store look like a sophisticated ramen shop where as her old traditional looking made it look like an everyday neighborhood shop. Though Tampopo has changed the appearance of her shop the layout of the shop is the same. The open counter to the chief to create a friendly atmosphere is still there so that the chief could welcome a new customer, which is an aspect of Japanese culture. This high class look, yet friendly atmosphere combines the Western and Japanese aspect of restaurant culture perfectly which of course leads to Tampopo’s success.