“Cooking” Womanhood in Japan: The Dialectics of Ideology and Practice

By Irith Freedman.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 16, 2015 $US5.00

This study uses ethnographic data collected in Japan to examine the relationship between the high cultural value accorded in Japan to home-cooked meals, and the gender role of women as homemakers. Food cooked at home, by a loved one, is highly valued in Japan, where store-bought meals are very common. Since women customarily cook at home, it is usually up to them to create this handmade (tezukuri) food. Yet, many women reach adulthood with very little cooking experience or skills. Aware of the potential for social capital, some women choose to learn how to cook in various institutions, and thus seemingly comply with their assigned gender role. This study took a deeper look into the connection between femininity and cooking in Japanese popular thinking and daily practice, through participant observation and interviews with students at one of Japan’s largest cooking school chains. Findings show that women use these lessons to achieve an array of goals, not always coinciding with the hegemonic gender role division. It then discusses how women apply social agency to achieve control over their life course through socially accepted channels such as cooking lessons, and the dialectic influence of practice and ideology of femininity in contemporary Japan.

Keywords: Japanese Culture, Gender Role, Cooking

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.35-42. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 16, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 308.235KB)).

Irith Freedman

PhD candidate, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel