J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Food Autonomy in the Matrivisual

Not withstanding the superb research by Hazel Marcus (Kitayama, Snibbe, Markus, & Suzuki, 2004; Markus, 2008; Markus & Schwartz, 2010; Savani, Markus, & Conner, 2008; Savani, Markus, Naidu, Kumar, & Berlia, 2010) on the way in which non W.E.I.R.D (White Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010) persons are not so interested in making choices, it is my opinion that the cultural desire to exercise ones autonomy depends upon the medium or channel in which the choice is to be made.

"Choices" generally refer to verbal expressions, vocalised or thought. Westerners look at menus and make orders and people bring them things. Westerners like to do this. They feel that it increases their self-esteem, empowers them, and makes them feel like God, in whose image they were made, with the word.

The Japanese however often say "I'll have that too" copying the first person to order, and feel less desire to make choices as expressed in verbal orders for food. The Japanese even feel that making choices and orders to be a burden so that good service in Japan, as shown in the above video is often believed to be one in which the verbal choices are made by an expert host who serves his guests with the food that is in that season and locale, the most delicious, and it was indeed delicious and looked great.

But at the same time, the Japanese are very keen to express their autonomy in the visio-behavioural domain. For this reason it is another strong characteristic of Japanese food as served at Japanese restaurants, that it allows the patrons to make it themselves, there on the table according to their proclivities.

Making a sexist assumption, which I believe largely underpins these differences, Japanese restaurants allow and facilitate mummy-autonomy rather than daddy-autonomy. If you want to bark orders to a wife, do not come to Japan. If you want to be free to make food how you like it, then Japan is heaven. Strangely, among feminists, Japan has a bad press.

I also note that the Japanese creation myth or mix starts with what might be called celestial cooking. The first deities mix the 'oily' primal soup and make the first island by dripping salty water. Christians believe in and enjoy creation 'ex-nihilo' by vocalisation. Japanese enjoy creation ex-soup by stirring, and dripping -- a common creative trope in Shinto mythology -- and a lot of fun at the farewell party banquet table.

'ex-nihilo' is a lie, about a lie!

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61–83. Retrieved from http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0140525X0999152X
Kitayama, S., Snibbe, A. C., Markus, H. R., & Suzuki, T. (2004). Is There Any ‘Free’ Choice? Psychological Science, 15(8), 527.
Markus, H. R. (2008). Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well-Being?. Presented at the International Society for  Cross-Cultural Psychology, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651242
Markus, H. R., & Schwartz, B. (2010). Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well-Being? Journal of Consumer Research, 37(2), 344–355. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651242
Savani, K., Markus, H. R., & Conner, A. L. (2008). Let your preference be your guide? Preferences and choices are more tightly linked for North Americans than for Indians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(4), 861–876.
Savani, K., Markus, H. R., Naidu, N. V. R., Kumar, S., & Berlia, N. (2010). What Counts as a Choice?: U.S. Americans Are More Likely Than Indians to Construe Actions as Choices. Psychological Science, 21(3), 391–398. http://doi.org/10.1177/0956797609359908

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.