Consuming the "Oriental Other," Constructing the Cosmopolitan Canadian: Reinterpreting Japanese Culinary Culture in Toronto's Japanese Restaurants

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Tanaka, Shaun Naomi
food geographies , cosmopolitanism , Other , racism , Japanese , Toronto
During the last decade, Japanese cuisine has become firmly rooted in Canada. The once unusual sounding dishes such as sushi, tempura, and edamame are now familiar to most Canadians. Indeed, Japanese restaurants make up a substantial portion of Toronto’s diverse foodscape, yet little is known about how this culinary culture is understood, how the constructed image is created, and the identities that are produced through its production and consumption. This dissertation aims to unpack the constructed identities of the cosmopolitan and the “Oriental Other” contained within Japanese culinary circuits in Toronto, while also examining the connections, constructions, and negotiations concealed within the Japanese restaurants’ cultural landscape. It seeks to highlight the processes of racialization, Whiteness, and the articulation of difference that are interconnected and interdependent on the production and consumption of Japanese food in Toronto’s restaurants. Through this process, cultural differences are mapped out, allowing Japanese cuisine to become an accessible and readily available place to search for cosmopolitan identity making and the performance of Otherness. To this aim, in-depth interviews were conducted with residents of Toronto and chefs of Japanese ethnic origin. Both groups emphasize the relations between food providers and consumers, authenticity strategies, and their imaginative geographies of Japanese culinary culture but had remarkably different interpretations on how these constructions are practiced, articulated, and ultimately understood.
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