Publication Date

April 2015

Advisor(s)

Akira Shimizu

Major

History (HIST)

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

The study of food can divulge some of the most basic characteristics of different people’s social organization at any given point in time, and serves as a useful way to address issues of historical change and continuity at the level of everyday life. Building upon this notion, I examine the history of instant ramen at key moments in its history in order to illuminate the many transformations to everyday life that defined postwar Japan. Postwar Japan was a period of tumultuous change, driven and reinforced by institutional changes and economic development that has transformed the way Japanese view their world and act in it. As a child of the times, instant ramen is a modern food that acted as both passive observer and active participant in the evolution of a modern Japan, and the interplay between instant ramen and major social transformations reveals the dynamic tension between prevailing norms and shifting realities. By examining shifts in popularity, marketing techniques, and public reactions in the context of several key changes in Japanese society, I demonstrate that instant ramen can serve as the medium to understand the connections between postwar modernization and life as experienced at the everyday level in Japan.

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