December 19, 2018

Food for Thought

This Japanese chocolate named Apollo was introduced in 1969 when the Americans successfully landed on the moon. I was 2 years old then. The shape of the chocolate resembles that of Apollo 11’s space capsule. The pink part is strawberry flavored. It’s still being sold in Japan.

Growing up, I remember Americans being referred to as the authority on many subjects. It was almost as though the American culture functioned like a superego for the Japanese culture. The American gaze has broadly influenced Japanese culture. It’s not that the creators of these products are literally thinking about what Americans would think of their products; the process is largely unconscious. In fact, most of them have no expectation of their products being sold overseas. This is partly why “Engrish,” comically bastardized English, is everywhere.

In feminist theories, there is a concept of “male gaze” that women too unconsciously internalize because of its ubiquity. When women design products under the influence of the male gaze, they are not consciously catering to men. The American gaze for the Japanese functions in the same way. Breaking free of this internalized gaze is not easy; it’s like freeing yourself from your superego, your internalized parents. Some people in Japan become hardcore nationalists as a result of their attempt to free themselves from this American gaze, but whether they love or hate the American culture makes no difference in terms of how much they care about it. Detachment would be the only way out of it.

#japanesefood #japan #apollo #chocolate #japaneseculture #nycfoodie #japanesesnack