Author: alexandrastefanovic

A Cheesy Tale: A failed story of Japanese Cheesecake

The process of cheese making was first introduced to us over 2000 years ago in 200 BCE. The cheesecake is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece and was ‘served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C.‘ (Bellis, 2017) as a form of superfood.

GREECE

Originating in Ancient Greece, it is believed that the cheesecake was originally eaten as a superfood during the first Olympic Games.

The cheesecake was introduced to Japan after the Meiji government encouraged the adoption of foreign foods through ‘a recipe book published in 1873 making the first mention of the cheesecake.’ (Thompson, 2017). However, it was not adopted until the postwar period when American forces introduced American-baked cheesecake.

Contrasting to traditional cheesecakes, such as the New York style cheesecake, the Japanese cheesecake contains more of a soufflé texture and can be described as light, wobbly and fluffy. ‘Rikuro Ojisan‘ in Osaka was amongst the first shops that began serving this style of cheesecake, in the 1960’s. Its popularity has since boomed with the introduction of other Japanese cheesecake shops.

CHEEEESEEEE.jpg

The ‘wobbly’ Japanese Cheesecake

An example of this presents itself in Uncle Tetsu’s, which opened in 1970 in Fukuoka. As of 2016, Uncle Tetsus’s crossed the border and made its way to Sydney, Australia.

This occurrence has allowed us to experience this different texture of cheesecake that is loved by many in its home country. The cakes uses ‘Australian cream cheese and Australian butter and Australian milk and Australian egg and Australian flour and sugar…’ (McNab, 2016).

We decided to create our own Japanese cheesecake, based on a recipe we found online. The video below features our experience creating this cheesecake as well as comparing it to the traditional New York style cheesecake and Uncle Tetsus’s Japanese cheesecake. It is a demonstration of our autobiographical experience with the Japanese cheesecake as we utilise storytelling conventions such as ‘character, scene, and plot development.’ (Ellis & Ellingson, 2000; Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). The video also demonstrates the “showing” (Adams, 2006; Lamott, 1994; Ellis et al, 2011) technique that is used to bring ‘“readers into the scene” – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions (Ellis 2004, p.142) – in order to “experience an experience”’ (Ellis, 1993, p.711; Ellis & Bochner, 2006; Ellis et al, 2011).

The only kind of cheesecake we had been previously exposed to was the New York style cheesecake. As described in the video, this cheesecake has a thicker and creamier texture and taste, complimented with a biscuit base. The Japanese cheesecake had a lighter, sponge-like texture with a much eggier taste. Noticing these taste and texture differences was our first major “epiphany” during this process. Ultimately this has provided us with a deeper understanding (Ellis et al, 2011) of the kinds of cheesecakes that are out there and how they differ amongst cultures.

By experiencing the unfamiliar through the Japanese cheesecake we gained a bigger appreciation for the New York style cheesecake, as we favoured its flavour more. This therefore allowed us to ‘practice self-reflexivity’ (Alsop 2002, p.1) and to transcend beyond our immediate self and society. Additionally, this experience exposed use to Alsop’s notion of being ‘home and away’ where we studied our own culture whilst simultaneously studying the “other” culture (p.2).

Consequently, the glass that once divided the familiar and the unfamiliar has been shattered as our knowledge of the cheesecake has expanded.

We were pretty disappointed by the outcome of our Japanese cheesecake, so we were excited to try Uncle Tetsu’s to see if it would differ to our own. After watching a few videos reviewing Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake, our excitement seemed to dissolve when we finally ate it. We experienced what Alsop describes as ‘Heimweh’, a German word meaning ‘Homesickness’ (p.5). We soon longed for the taste of the familiar. Despite this, we had no issues with the Japanese cheesecake as it was just an extension of a food we already love. The texture and taste of the Japanese cheesecake is simply different.

Bibliography:

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FEMININITY IN JAPANESE ANIME: Analysis.

ALEX

In my autoethnographic account: ‘FEMININITY IN JAPANESE ANIME’, I explored how my initial ideas of femininity, including how they are visually portrayed, were challenged. This occurred through my viewing of various anime and Studio Ghibli films.

Throughout this account, I used epiphanies to present to my readers just how different Hayao Miyazaki’s portrayal of females were compared to animations that I was previously used to e.g. Disney and the damsel in distress stereotype. These epiphanies impacted on and helped to further shape my understanding of femininity in anime.

I used Ellis et al’s methodology of “storytelling” and “showing” in an attempt to familiarise my audience with the characters of whom I was talking about, and by doing so, ‘bring “readers into the scene” – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions.‘ I also did this as a way of informing my readers, who may not be familiar with anime…

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Femininity in Japanese Anime.

Growing up I had always had an interest in Asian culture, specifically anime.
In other words, I am this kid:

Not really, but I understand his enthusiasm. 

Just like any child my age I loved watching cartoons and the way each character had its own individual style and personality.
In fact, I remember favouring certain cartoons over others based on their aesthetic quality e.g. ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog‘ > ‘Cow and Chicken‘.
I remember eagerly anticipating Cartoon Cartoon Fridays with my siblings. On a few occasions we spent the whole day in our pyjamas, eyes glued to the TV.
Disgusting, I know.

When I was around 11 I started watching anime that would appear on TV such as Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.
Prior to them the only cartoon I had ever watched that was relatively ‘Asian’ was ‘Samurai Jack‘ which is for starters, an American animated television series.
The difference in styles between these animations was pretty distinct; the Japanese animations were beautiful and noticeably more detailed and seemed carefully thought out, where each character had their own unique theme that distinguished them from the others. The animations I was used to were more simplified and were often not depicted in a fantasy world. 

 

One night, when I was 12, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) came on TV. Immediately I was captivated. Everything from the music to the clothing, the architecture, the way the people were depicted and the food, it was all so unfamiliar to me, and that was why I loved it so much.
For me, they were the most lifelike cartoons I had ever seen. Compared to the anime TV shows I had previously watched, Miyazaki’s characters did not have the typical ‘big-eyed, anime look‘. I remember thinking how mysterious and brooding, yet feminine, the character Haku was (in my 12 year old, pre-pubescent mind I would have probably described him differently). I also really liked the character Lin (Rin) who is cold and unmotherly to the main character, Chihiro, at first but then eventually warms up to her. I thought that was unusual of a female character to be that way to a young girl, but I liked it as it taught Chihiro to be independent and strong. 

After viewing these Japanese animations I was intrigued by them.

Looking back on the films I grew up watching as a child, the disparity between Disney films and Studio Ghibli films was noticeable, particularly in relation to the portrayal of femininity. 

Out of the studio Ghibli productions I have only watched ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and ‘Howls Moving Castle’ (2004). However, despite my limited exposure to Miyazaki’s films, I noticed the portrayal of strong, powerful female characters whose actions would either result in the demise or triumph of their male counterparts e.g. Chihiro and Haku, No-Face and Chihiro, Sophie and Howl. They are ‘complicated, flawed and independent figures.’ Prior to this, the majority of animated films I watched were quite different, with the male typically rescuing the female from her seemingly doomed existence e.g. Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel etc. I think this is because such films revolve primarily around romance and the prospect of marriage, especially the older Disney films. Studio Ghibli seems to portray the lead male and female characters as equals with a mutual respect for one another.

In Miyazaki’s films, the female leads  have separate stories from the male leads, stories that usually highlight their independence, power and intelligence. After recently watching ‘Princess Mononoke’ and reflecting on ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howls Moving Castle’, the female villains (Lady Eboshi, Yubaba and Witch of the Waste) are portrayed as powerful and intimidating characters. However, their story lines are explored and, consequently, reveal them as complex characters with understandable reasons behind their actions. So what does this do to traditional notions of femininity? It expands them, and creates characters with more dimension and less stereotypes attached to them.

I am also really interested in the notion of cosplay and I additionally want to explore femininity in cosplay and how participants choose to interpret a character in a certain way through their costumes; does it make them feel empowered and confident? What made them decide to cosplay this particular anime? Do they admire these characters?
I am attending the Sydney Comic Con this year in September so I hope to answer these questions there.
I also want to visit the ‘anime station‘ and ‘artist alley‘ to look at how femininity is represented.

For this reason, I am interested in pursuing an independent research project in the form of an essay based on notions of femininity in anime; from films and art to how these animations are translated to real-life scenarios through cosplay.
Contacting online fan clubs to initiate discussion on this topic would also be beneficial and interesting to my research.
To provide more background on my research I may also look at the historical depictions of females in Japanese styles of art and literature.

 

Autoethnography: An Understanding.

After reading ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘ I have realised the importance of NOT delving into your own personal story in relation to experiencing a culture WITHOUT analysing that experience. It is important to experience, observe and to question.
Autoethnography is a qualitative research methodology that combines autobiography and ethnography. Such a combination ultimately allows the researcher to uncover a large amount of information about a culture.
Epiphanies are experiences gained from immersing oneself into a culture and are powerful reflective tools used by autoethnographers:

In primary school I developed a love and appreciation for Asian culture.
When I was in year three I befriended a Vietnamese girl.
I distinctly remember enjoying her company because she introduced me to a completely different world, one that I had previously been unaware of.
In my micro world bubble, she brought in macro world elements of Vietnamese culture, including food, music, stationary and other miscellaneous things.
This friendship allowed me to garner a more personal experience with the culture itself and taught me to be understanding and sensitive towards it and its values.

I feel very enthusiastic about conducting an autoethnographic study on Asian culture. As I have grown older, I have found myself increasingly interested in the way people from this culture express themselves, be it through their eclectic and quirky Harajuku street fashion, their photography, art and/or music.

This video provides insight into why ‘decora girls’ dress this way. The interviewer engages in participant observation to gain a deeper understanding of life as a decora girl and why it is such a popular phenomenon. It is a symbol of rebellion against the mainstream values of ‘order and discipline’ that are engrained within Japanese culture. However, the interviewer ultimately communicates that this fashion is an integral part of identity; a subculture signifier.

Similarly, from my own observations, this cutesy, kawaii fashion reminded me of that seen in famous Japanese anime, including Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.

Welcome_to_Disney,_Mew_Mew_Power!

With my current understanding of autoethnography, I would like to work with a group to analyse various elements of Asian culture including food, tv shows, movies, fashion etc. This analysis could be strengthened through interviews and participant observations. The participant observations would be a great way to immerse myself into the culture and to quickly expand my knowledge of it. I feel that these experiences would be effectively documented through video and uploaded to YouTube.

I am conscious of doing this in a manner that is objective, respectful and non exploitative. However, I realise that ‘…subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research…’ are natural parts of the autoethnographic process.

 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, viewed 11th August 2017, <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095>.

Gojira – The original slizzard lizard from the East.

I have never been an avid consumer of films from the 50’s but I am aware that they comprise of a particular recipe. Where does this awareness come from?! Well, luckily for me my dad is obsessed with 50’s films, so whenever I am swaggering through the lounge room I find myself quickly observing the world of 1950’s Hollywood cinema.

When I found out we would be watching Gojira, 1954, I was pretty excited, mainly because I have never seen a Japanese film from the 50’s and was interested to see if it would be any different from the one’s my dad is constantly ogling at.

While watching Gojira, I was really trying to pick up on distinct elements of Asian culture, but I just could not get past the uncanny similarities between it and the American films of that time. This was particularly obvious with regard to the composure of males and females. YES I was not really focused on the giant, mutated amphibian that was defacing the city of Tokyo and its people. I was too busy studying the actions of the characters.

The lead female character, Emiko, depicts the archetypal female of that time. This becomes pretty obvious through her conservative ‘housewife’ clothing and overall, consistent ‘damsel in distress’ demeanour e.g.

Emiko

Clinging to/being held by male figure.

emiko1

‘I can be your hero baby’ – Enrique Iglesias perfectly depicting Dr. Serizawa’s thoughts.

These kind of gender roles are mirrored in famous western movies of the 50’s era:

Kiss Me Deadly, 1955 – ‘Ugh, get off me peasant.’

Pickup on South Street, 1953 – Female figure swooning in male figures arms.

Vertigo, 1958 – Female figure demonstrates downturned, submissive eye. Male figure appears domineering and assertive through gaze and physical contact.

I also found that the sheer amount of violence made it hard for any elements of Asian culture to come through e.g. most scenes are dark and ominous to reflect the sense of doom and loss of hope that Gojira’s presence brings, however, this makes it hard to see the surrounding landscape.

Upon further discussion, I did not realise that Gojira may have been used as a tool to subconsciously instill fear into viewers regarding nuclear energy and its destructive potential. Coming out of WW2, the battle between Gojira and the military power must have been a symbol of how useless and minuscule this power is in the face of something as huge as nuclear energy. Thus the movie carries a powerful, underlying anti-war message:

“…if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.”

Kyohei Yamane-hakase, Gojira, 1954.

Ultimately, this helped me to recognise the global success of the film. I can also see why the West adopted it and made their own version because it plays upon the basic, universal human emotions and actions that come about in times of crisis e.g. fear, violence, sadness and distress.

I guess my current knowledge of Asian culture caused me to predict how this film from the 50’s would have been. However, in the modern line of production, Asian culture has clearly developed a more distinct sense of style and identity e.g. Anime, Cosplay, fashion etc.

Overall, pretty cool movie;

9/10 slizzard lizards.

Alex 🙂