Wednesday, 31 August 2011

戀するキムチ (Kimchi Love)

This is a one-episode NHK drama which commemorates the 70th anniversary of Gifu NHK. The plot's simple: Kakamigahara city in Japan has become a new tourist destination because of the Korean drama Winter Sonata, and the city council wants to produce a new kind of food which represents the city in a food festival. The girl who is responsible for the programme discovers, through the help of a Korean exchange officer, the real taste of 'home food' in the process. 
What's interesting in this drama is the context in which it's produced. Korean influence in Japanese popular culture is increasingly evident in recent years, and it is met by some discontent in Japan. In my opinion, the mingling of Japanese and Korean culture is inevitable, as the two countries are so close geographically and their cultures and languages have so much in common. What's particularly interesting in this drama is when the Korean officer questions the use of kimchi to represent Kakamigahara city in the food festival, asking 'Aren't you ashamed to be imitating others when there is so much Japan has to offer on its own?'. In the end, after helping the girl overcome all the difficulties, he reasons, 'Tradition is built on what some people have started. In a way, with what you have done (making kimchi with local flavour), you are also starting a new tradition.' 
This is, I suppose, what 'fusion food' is all about. It's not about how authentic the food is, but how well you have made changes to something foreign and made it your own. Once you have made it your own, it's not about tradition anymore. Just look at how 'California rolls' are sold worldwide, even in Japan, and how  Japanese Italian food has almost become a cuisine of its own!

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