Since arriving in Sydney, almost a week has passed and I am not surprised that there are many differences between Japanese and Aussie food culture. I already knew that there would be some basic differences between Japan and Australia. For example, we eat rice as a staple food while Western people eat mainly bread and drink milk. In addition, table manners are quite different; we use chopsticks and when we eat soup, we drink it directly from the bowl and we hold up the bowl or plate. This is a practice that is unique to Japan, but which Aussies do not have. However, recently I have noticed another even more important difference in the food culture in these two countries and have begun to look at food from a more spiritual and philosophical perspective.
First of all, every time we eat we show gratitude for our food. Before and after we receive our dishes we say “itadakimasu” and “ gochisaama” which means “Thank you for the delicious meal”. This is based on the teachings of Buddhism and it reflects our culture. When I ate dinner with my host family in Sydney for the first time, I was so surprised because they started to eat straight away saying, “Let’s eat”.
Secondly, the way the Japanese eat helps to create a sense of community and friendship between the people who eat together. According Jones (2003, p112), “Whereas people in the United States pride themselves on a sense of individualism and informality; Japanese value groups and formality.” These different values are reflected in the way we eat. For example, hot pot dishes called Nabe are often eaten in the winter season. Four or five people sit around a hot pot and put soup and ingredients from the pot into their own bowls and eat them. This experience of sharing strengthens their bonds of friendship. On the other hand, in Western countries like Australia, food is served on a separate plate or bowl and often people eat on their own.
To sum up, there are many obvious differences between the food cultures in Australia and Japan like the staples, table manners, cuisine and so on. However, for me the most significant difference relates to spirituality and philosophy from the teachings of Buddhism.
By Yuji Ono