Category Archives: Reality

Social Enrichment Through Food

Evoking sharp, sensory emotions; promoting marvelous, cognitive associations; and communicating traditional, symbolic expressions, food elicits a profound quality throughout many cultures: unification of people. The Momotaro stories particularly embrace the idea of “uniting others” with food—mainly through positive associations of camaraderie. In comparison, Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary highlights community strengthening through food’s symbolic power; instead, however, the characters join together through negative connotations of suffering. Food’s function as a unifier can be analyzed between both literary texts and visual films. Represented through Iwaya Sazanami’s Momotaro = The Story of Peach-Boy and Tsuchimoto’s Minamata: The Victims and Their World, food operates as a figurative symbol and a material object that unifies estranged communities.

Iwaya Sazanami manipulates his writing to indirectly relate a smaller unification with a large-scale unification. In his Momotaro story, he describes an old couple who appears distraught over lack of children. However, once the old woman finds “a huge peach, big enough to fill her arms” (10 Iwaya), a little boy pops out of the fruit to explain his purpose: He intends to provide joy to the couple after “seeing that they are both so sad” (16 Iwaya). Sazanami develops a small, but significant community by employing a peach as a figurative, food symbol—an old woman and an old man become united with a child of their own. Comparably, this community development epitomizes the wide-ranging scale of unification that occurs in contemporary times: how ratatouille encapsulates the French; how pasta envelops the Italians; how lumpia bonds the Filipinos; and how ramēn/sushi unites the Japanese. In this case, the peach revitalizes a couple’s marriage, establishing a novel connection. Food not only has a physical attribute to forming happiness, but it also has a metaphorical element to uniting hopeless souls.

The historical context of Momotaro sets him in the late 19th century, with the English translation coming in the pre-WWII era. He epitomizes the popular hero who remains entangled in Japanese folklore. His figure also appears in countless wartime films and cartoons that appeal to the Japanese citizens as propaganda. In these widespread media portrayals, Momotaro usually represents the Japanese government; the citizens signify the animals; and the United States characterizes the demonic figure. The food and treasure that Momotaro and his animals receive after defeating the demon reflect the lost glory of Japan’s empire. Food’s presence in these stories holds another symbolic meaning: Food represents the attachment between the Japanese government and its people—just like how a chemical bond connects two atoms. Nevertheless, the Momotaro stories utilize food to cultivate strong relationships and lasting communities.

Tokiyoshi Onoue's personal testimonial compares to the whole Minamata community's experience.

Tokiyoshi Onoue’s personal testimonial compares to the whole Minamata community’s experience.

In similar fashion, Tsuchimoto applies food to compare one man’s suffering with a whole community’s suffering. He uses Tokiyoshi Onoue’s testimonial to illuminate a population’s distressful unity. As the Minamata disease forms a resilient community through people’s suffering, the Momotaro stories arrange cohesive communities through people’s comradeship: the contrasting quality between Sazanami’s writing and Tsuchimoto’s media. In the film, Onoue reveals his pain and anguish that the poisoning fish produced. The food’s contamination forcefully disables any consumers—blinding vision, restricting sound, and damaging basic motor skills. Upon recognition of the disease, Onoue begins to lose a certain amount of respect and trust of food’s safety. This personal relationship symbolizes the overall relationship that Minamata residents have with their seafood. The local fishermen, the close families, the dying individuals all start to discount their association with food’s unifying demands. Food’s figurative role as a uniting symbol emerges through the depths of people’s suffering. Minamata’s community develops a strong connection through everyone’s discomfort and torture.

The historical framework of the Minamata disease places it during a post-WWII era—a close similarity with that of Momotaro’s propaganda setting. Minamata’s remote location also sets it apart from the Japanese mainstream culture. This sets the stage for Minamata to create its own society and community. Since the residents did not have plenty of outside interaction, they had to combine their efforts with one another. The poisoned food ultimately matures the population through a tormenting array of sorrow. Even though the citizens become hampered to produce everyday tasks, they still overcome such obstacles to unify. Nevertheless, food embodies the metaphorical epitome of industrializing a spirited community.

Now implemented as a material object through the Momotaro stories, Sazanami employs food as a physical unifier between characters. He uses millet dumplings to bond Momotaro and a dog: “he accepted the half-dumpling and having eaten it he went on with Peach-Boy” (25 Iwaya). He continues to use millet dumplings to connect Momotaro and a monkey: “I will give you half of one of the best millet dumplings in Japan, and you may follow me” (28 Iwaya). He finally unites another pairing between Momotaro and a bird: “I now charge you to accompany me in the same way as the dog and the money in my expedition” (31 Iwaya). Once again, this small community of a hero and his comrades exemplifies the larger picture—how a massive community between the Japanese government and its citizens ripens. Food’s function as a unifier travels beyond the scope of just forming a community; it reaches the extent of establishing companionships and relationships. Sazanami manipulates food to serve as his community development initiative. He implements food to directly institute a bonding association—since the monkey, dog, and bird openly accept the dumplings. This illuminates how food works to build communities through certain respects of camaraderie and materialism.

The comparison between “Momotaro and his companions” and “the Japanese government and its citizens” signifies Sazanami’s purpose to portray community progression. The millet dumplings operate as a food symbol in the story, and the food represents the Momotaro stories in reality. Since the dumplings form a community between the hero and his acquaintances, the Momotaro stories form a community between the government and its people. Together, both communities develop a passionate sense of unity and accord to battle worldly evils. In Momotaro’s case, they travel to defeat the ogres at Ogre Island; in Japan’s case, they journey to conquer the Unites States at Pearl Harbor. Food manages to characterize a potent unifier that continues to produce fervent societies.

Community outreach and development.

Community outreach and development.

Through another comparison, Tsuchimoto highlights how food can symbolize the basis of constructing a vehement community. He chronicles the Minamata residents as they band together to confront the death-providing Chisso Corporation—the instigator who polluted the Minamata waters with mercury compounds. Indirectly speaking, the diseased food connects the people of Minamata as a single neighborhood, fighting to voice their harrowing pain and traumatic anger. An example of this cohesive community can be described through the documentary’s dramatic climax: Tsuchimoto films the residents attending a Chisso biannual, shareholders meeting. They collectively demand that the company president accept full responsibility for Chisso’s offenses against the environment and humanity. Food resumes its constant duty to unify communities—with love in its intentions and conviction in its production.

The story of Minamata’s fight for justice not only suggests historical importance, but it also reveals the determined spirit that a group of people is willing to deliver. This community struggle holds the potential to inspire other communities who also suffer from the hands of an indifferent bureaucracy. Although each family and individual embrace their own personal account of sorrow, they all combine their efforts and tales to form a community of simple, conscientious people. Tsuchimoto’s filming tactics fully epitomize the meaning of how food brings people into unison.

While Tsuchimoto and Sazanami develop contrasting works of art, they both succinctly illustrate the same, basic message: Food not only functions as a figurative symbol to unify communities, but it also works as a material object to unite others. Whether a situation expounds anguish, happiness, friendship, or violence, people always find a way to become intertwined through food’s bitter taste; food’s sweet taste; food’s rare taste; or food’s repulsive taste. Food grasps that special power to unify communities under the best conditions, or the worst conditions. It remains as a symbol that refers to any aspect of a culture’s or individual’s history and identity.


A Woman’s Worth

A satiric comedy surrounding noodles, a cultural message uplifting rāmen, a simplistic medium appreciating food, Juzo Itami’s Tampopo explores a traditional topic of Japanese compassion towards food. The movie cultivates an ingenious experience for audience members—involving scenes of food adoration and food promiscuity. The main story involves a sagacious truck driver helping to stimulate an unqualified business: Tampopo’s rāmen shop. Woven into this principal storyline, a variety of vignettes highlights a deeper understanding of food, love, and relationships.

During the 1980s—the movie completion time—Japan not only absorbed a foundation of economic prosperity and financial affluence, but it also developed an increased involvement with aspects of international affairs and cultures. Because of Japan’s participation in globalization, it began to insert the trending dogma of a feministic revolution: a movement and ideology that establishes equal, social rights for women. Nevertheless, the transformation of Tampopo’s social status exemplifies the conversion of Japan’s social hierarchy—where women begin to assert their prominence as succeeding members of society. Itami generates Tampopo as a symbol for the feministic rise in Japanese culture.

Tampopo pleads her case.

Tampopo pleads her case.

First expressing women as dependent and vulnerable, Tampopo manipulates Tampopo as the conventional stereotype of Japanese women: unimportant and fragile. Thus, the most important scene in the movie involves Tampopo recognizing her need for an instructor—someone who nourishes her ability to become an effective, independent woman. She starts to profess, almost to beg, her desire for a rāmen master. In comparison to Japanese women holding a low social standing, Tampopo literally remains below Goro—the truck driving, rāmen teacher—to plead her hunger for success. Her hidden appearance behind the truck door indirectly resembles the hidden potential that Japanese women carry. The moment when Tampopo begs Goro for his lessons epitomizes the realism of how women were viewed in Japan: Men asserted their power and strength while women were perceived weaker and helpless. The position of each character gives more insight into the Japanese hierarchy—Goro sits higher, looking down, to signify man’s superiority over all others; Tampopo stands below, staring up, to suggest woman’s struggle to insert distinction and influence. However, Tampopo sheds a small light of hope: With an abundance of aspiration and determination, Japanese women have full control and vigor to equalize Japanese men. She clutches a yearning to thrive in Japanese society, giving her a leading position in the social, feministic revolution.

Tampopo revels her newfound success.

Tampopo revels her newfound success.

After a series of learning experiences and growing pains, Tampopo matures into the independent, efficacious woman that surrounds her potential. Just as it took time for her to obtain respect, it also took time for Japanese women to gain reverence in their respective culture. This represents the most important scene because it illustrates the burning will that Tampopo—a symbol for ambitious, Japanese women—embraces: She craves parity. She wants a rāmen shop that envelops customers’ hearts and taste buds. Her progress and maturity sets the movie in motion, developing an atmosphere of fortitude. This whole scene lays the foundation of not only a feministic, growth movement, but also Tampopo’s character development.

Momotaro’s Bushido

In Momotaro: Sea Eagle, it takes the folklore of Momotaro and transforms it into a WW2 propaganda film. The film keeps most aspects of the orignal folklore, like the millet dumplings, invasion of Demon Island, and the three animals that fight alongside Momotaro. An important aspect they kept were the demons being very weak compared to Momotaro’s forces. This is very important because the demons represent Japan’s enemy during WW2, America, and since it is a propaganda film some form of slander is expected. Now, the picture I chose as being the most important shot in the animated film is when Momotaro’s forces are almost done with their attack on Demon Island. In the middle of battle, right after climbing out of the ocean the leader of the demons immediately takes down is flag, shakes off the colors, and tries to surrender.

The demon commander abandons his countries colors to surrender

Now, the slander here seems quite obvious, a large man giving up his country’s colors to try and surrender; however, there is a hidden meaning underneath all of that. To understand the hidden meaning, we must try to have a similar mentaility as a Japanese civilian during WW2; and during that time a very influential idea was going around, bushido. During WW2, the basic idea of bushido was that it was utterly disgraceful to surrender and that it was better to commit suicide/fight to the last man in the name of the emperor. Now, with that in mind the shot I chose now contains another message, that the Americans had no honor and had no problem abandoning their country to live. This is why I believe this shot is the most important, because it not only delivers a simple message to children but a very propagandistic message to the older audience.