Food Action Nippon and Slow Food Japan: The Role of Two Citizen Movements in the Rediscovery of Local Foodways

Stephanie Assmann



This paper looks at two citizen movements in Japan that address the country’s low self-sufficiency rate of merely 40% and the issue of food safety. Recently, a series of food scandals that also involved imported food products has alarmed Japan, such as the incident of Chinese dumplings that were tainted with pesticides (gyôza jiken) at the beginning of 2008.


Food Action Nippon defines itself as a citizen movement (kokumin undô) that provides information about domestic food products and balanced eating habits. Slow Food Japan is an NGO and part of the worldwide Slow Food Movement that originated 1986 in Italy. Slow Food Japan seeks to preserve a cultural heritage such as vegetables, fruits and cattle that are in danger of vanishing and tied to a specific region and special cultivation techniques.


Taking these two citizen movements—a governmental initiative and a global movement—as examples, I argue that the quest for a return to supposedly safer domestic foods reflects a search for national and local identity expressed through the (re)discovery and promotion of local foods.


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Stephanie AssmannStephanie Assmann is associate professor for Comparative Culture and German Language at Akita University, Japan. She holds a PhD in Japanese Studies from the University of Hamburg, Germany. Her research interests include consumer behavior, especially with regards to traditional fashion and foodways in contemporary Japan. Together with Eric C. Rath (University of Kansas), she published a collection of essays entitled "Japanese Foodways. Past and Present" which was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2010.