Japanese Mothers and Obento Boxes

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Japanese Mothers and Obentōs: The Lunch-Box as Ideological State Apparatus Author(s): Anne Allison Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 4, Gender and the State in Japan (Oct., 1991), pp. 195-208 Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317212 . Accessed: 04/06/2013 00:09 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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JAPANESE MOTHERS AND OBENTOS: THE LUNCH-BOXAS IDEOLOGICALSTATE APPARATUS ANNE ALLISON University of Colorado Obentus are boxed lunches Japanese mothers make for their nursery school children. Following Japanese codes for food preparation-multiple courses that are aesthetically arranged-these lunches have a cultural order and meaning. Using the obentu as a school ritual and chore-it must be consumed in its entirety in the company of all the children-the nursery school also endows the obentu with ideological meanings. The child must eat the obentu; the mother must make an obentu the child will eat. Both mother and child are being judged; the subjectivities of both are being guided by the nursery school as an institution. It is up to the mother to make the ideological operation entrusted to the obentu by the state-linked institution of the nursery school, palatable and pleasant for her child, and appealing and pleasurable for her as a mother. [food, mother, Japan, education, ideology] Introduction

accomplished. I use Althusser's concept of the Ideological State Apparatus (1971) to frame my argument. I will briefly describe how food is coded as a cultural and aesthetic apparatus in Japan, and what authority the state holds over schools in Japanese society. Thus situating the parameters within which the obentv is regulated and structured in the nursery school setting, I will examine the practice both of making and eating obentv within the context of one nursery school in Tokyo. As an anthropologist and mother of a child who attended this school for fifteen months, my analysis is based on my observations, on discussions with other mothers, daily conversations and an interview with my son's teacher, examination of obento magazines and cookbooks, participation in school rituals, outings, and Mothers' Association meetings, and the multifarious experiences of my son and myself as we faced the obento process every day. I conclude that obentos as a routine, task, and art form of nursery school culture are endowed with ideological and gendered meanings that the state indirectly manipulates. The manipulation is neither total nor totally coercive, however, and I argue that pleasure and creativity for both mother and child are also products of the obentv.

Japanese nursery school children, going off to school for the first time, carry with them a boxed lunch (obento) prepared by their mothers at home. Customarily these obentvs are highly crafted elaborations of food: a multitude of miniature portions, artistically designed and precisely arranged, in a container that is sturdy and cute. Mothers tend to expend inordinate time and attention on these obentos in efforts both to please their children and to affirm that they are good mothers. Children at nursery school are taught in turn that they must consume their entire meal according to school rituals. Food in an obentv is an everyday practice of Japanese life. While its adoption at the nursery school level may seem only natural to Japanese and unremarkable to outsiders, I will argue in this article that the obento is invested with a gendered state ideology. Overseen by the authorities of the nursery school, an institution which is linked to, if not directly monitored by, the state, the practice of the obentv situates the producer as a woman and mother, and the consumer, as a child of a mother and a student of a school. Food in this context is neither casual nor arbitrary. Eaten quickly in its entirety by the student, the obento must be fashioned by the mother so as to expedite this chore for the child. Both mother and child are being watched, judged, and constructed; and it is only through their joint effort that the goal can be

Cultural Ritual and State Ideology As anthropologists have long understood, not only are the worlds we inhabit symbolically constructed, 195

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but also the constructionsof our culturalsymbols are endowedwith, or have the potentialfor, power. How we see reality,in otherwords,is also how we live it. So the conventionsby which we recognize our universeare also those by whicheach of us assumesour place and behaviorwithinthat universe. Cultureis, in this sense, doublyconstructive:constructingboth the worldfor peopleand peoplefor specificworlds. The fact that culture is not necessarilyinnocent, and power not necessarilytransparent,has been revealedby much theoreticalworkconducted both insideand outsidethe disciplineof anthropology. The scholarshipof the neo-MarxistLouis Althusser (1971), for example, has encouragedthe conceptualizationof poweras a force which operates in ways that are subtle, disguised, and acceptedas everydaysocialpractice.Althusserdifferentiatedbetweentwo majorstructuresof powerin modern capitalist societies. The first, he called, (Repressive)State Apparatus(SA), whichis power that the state wields and manages primarily throughthe threat of force. Here the state sanctions the usage of power and repressionthrough such legitimizedmechanismsas the law and police (1971: 143-5). Contrastedwith this is a second structureof power-Ideological State Apparatus(es) (ISA). These are institutionswhich have some overt function other than a political and/or administrative one:mass media,education,healthand welfare,for example.More numerous,disparate,and functionally polymorphousthan the SA, the ISA exert powernot primarilythroughrepressionbut through ideology.Designedand acceptedas practiceswith anotherpurpose-to educate (the school system), entertain(film industry),inform(news media),the ISA serve not only their stated objectivebut also an unstatedone-that of indoctrinatingpeopleinto seeing the world a certain way and of accepting certain identities as their own within that world (1971: 143-7). While both structuresof poweroperatesimultaneouslyand complementarily,it is the ISA, accordingto Althusser,whichin capitalistsocietiesis the more influentialof the two. Disguised and screenedby anotheroperation,the powerof ideology in ISA can be both more far-reachingand insidiousthan the SA's powerof coercion.Hiddenin the movieswe watch,the musicwe hear,the liquor we drink, the textbookswe read, it is overlooked becauseit is protectedand its protection-or its al-

ibi (Barthes1957: 109-111)-allows the termsand relationsof ideologyto spill into and infiltrateour everydaylives. A world of commodities,gender inequalities, and power differentialsis seen not therefore in these terms but as a naturalizedenvironment,one that makessensebecauseit has becomeour experience to live it and accept it in preciselythis way. This commonsenseacceptanceof a particularworld is the workof ideology,and it worksby concealing the coerciveand repressiveelementsof our everyday routinesbut also by makingthose routinesof the everydayfamiliar, desirable,and simply our own. This is the critical elementof Althusser'snotion of ideologicalpower:ideologyis so potentbecause it becomesnot only ours but us-the terms and machineryby whichwe structureourselvesand identifywho we are. Japanese Food as Cultural Myth

An authorin one obentvmagazine,the type of medium-sizedpublicationthat, filled with glossy pictures of obentosand ideas and recipesfor successfully recreatingthem, sells in the bookstoresacross Japan, declares, ". .. the making of the obento is

the one most worrisomeconcernfacingthe mother of a child going off to school for the first time (Shufunotomo1980:insidecover).Anotherobento journal,this one heftierand packagedin the encyclopedic series of the prolificwomen'spublishing firm, Shufunotomo, articulates the same social fact: "first-timeobentvsare a strainon both parent and child" ("hajimete no obentv wa, oya mo ko mo kinchoshimasu") (Shufunotomo 1981: 55).

An outside observermight ask: What is the real sourceof worryover obentv?Is it the food itself or the entranceof the young child into school for the first time? Yet, as one look at a typical child'sobentv--a smallbox packagedwith a fiveor six-course miniaturizedmeal whose pieces and parts are artisticallyarranged,perfectlycut, and neatly arranged-would immediately reveal, no food is "just"food in Japan.What is not so immediately apparent,however,is why a small child with limitedappetiteand perhapsscant interestin food is the recipientof a meal as elaborateand as elaboratelypreparedas any made for an entire family or invitedguests? Certainly,in Japanmuchattentionis focussed on the obento, investingit with a significancefar beyond that of the merely pragmatic,functional

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one of sustaininga child with nutritionalfoodstuffs. Since this investmentbeyondthe pragmaticis true of any food preparedin Japan,it is helpfulto examineculinarycodes for food preparationthat operate generallyin the society before focussingon

only to retain,as muchas possible,the innatenaturalness of ingredients-shoppingdaily so food is fresh and leaving much of it either raw or only minimallycooked-but also to recreatein prepared food the promiseand appearanceof being "natu-

children's obentvs.

ral." As Richie writes, ". .. the emphasis is on

As has been remarkedoften about Japanese food, the key elementis appearance.Foodmust be organized, re-organized, arranged, re-arranged, stylized,and re-stylizedto appearin a designthat is visuallyattractive.Presentationis critical:not to the extent that taste and nutritionare displaced,as has been sometimesattributedto Japanesefood, but to the degreethat how food looksis at least as importantas how it tastes and how good and sustainingit is for one's body. As Donald Richie has pointedout in his eloquent and informativebook A taste of Japan (1985), presentationalstyle is the guidingprinciple by whichfood is preparedin Japan,and the style is conditionedby a numberof codes. One code is for smallness,separation,and fragmentation.Nothing large is allowed,so portionsare all cut to be bitesized, served in small amountson tiny individual dishes, and are arrangedon a table (or on a tray, or in an obentvbox) in an arrayof small, separate containers.1There is no one big dinnerplate with three large portionsof vegetable,starch,and meat as in Americancuisine. Consequentlythe eye is pullednot towardone totalizingcenterbut away to a multiplicityof de-centeredparts.2 Visually, food substances are presentedaccording to a structuralprinciplenot only of segmentationbut also of opposition.Foodsare broken or cut to make contrasts of color, texture, and shape. Foodsare meantto opposeone anotherand clash: pink against green, roundishfoods against angular ones, smooth substances next to rough ones. This oppositionalcode operates not only within and betweenthe foodstuffsthemselves,but also betweenthe attributesof the food and thoseof the containersin or on which they are placed:a circularmoundin a squaredish, a bland colored food set againsta brightplate, a translucentsweet in a heavilytexturedbowl (Richie 1985: 40-1). The containeris as importantas what is contained in Japanesecuisine,but it is reallythe containment that is stressed, that is, how food has been (re)constructedand (re)arrangedfromnature to appear,in both beauty and freshness,perfectly natural.This stylizingof natureis a thirdcode by whichpresentationis directed;the injunctionis not

presentationof the naturalratherthan the natural itself. It is not what naturehas wroughtthat excites admirationbut what man has wroughtwith what?naturehas wrought"(1985: 11). This naturalization of food is rendered through two main devices. One is by constantly the naturethat comes hintingat and.appropriating from outside-decorating food with seasonal reminders,such as a mapleleaf in the fall or a flower in the spring,servingin-seasonfruits and vegetadishes such as bles, and using season-coordinated glasswarein the summerand heavypotteryin the winter. The other device, to some degree the inverse of the first, is to accentuateand perfectthe preparationprocessto such an extentthat the food appearsnot only to be natural, but more nearly perfect than nature without human intervention ever could be. This is naturemadeartificial.Thus, by naturalization,nature is not only taken in by Japanesecuisine,but takenover. It is this abilityboth to appropriate"real"nature (the mapleleaf on the tray) and to stampthe humanreconstructionof that natureas "natural" that lends Japanesefood its potentialfor cultural and ideologicalmanipulation.It is what Barthes calls a second order myth (1957: 114-7): a language which has a functionpeopleaccept as only pragmatic-the sendingof rosesto lovers,the consumptionof winewith one'sdinner,the cleaningup a motherdoes for her child-which is taken over by some interest or agenda to serve a different end-florists who can sell roses, liquorcompanies who can marketwine, conservativepoliticianswho campaign for a gendereddivision of labor with womenkept at home. The first orderof language ("language-object"),thus emptied of its original meaning,is convertedinto an emptyformby which it can assume a new, additional,second order of signification ("metalanguage"or "second-order semiologicalsystem").As Barthespointsout however, the primarymeaningis neverlost. Rather,it remains and stands as an alibi, the cover under which the second, politicizedmeaning can hide. Roses sell better, for example, when lovers view them as a vehicle to expresslove ratherthan the meansby which a companystays in business.

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At one level, food is just food in Japan-the mediumby whichhumanssustaintheir natureand health. Yet under and through this code of pragmatics,Japanesecuisine carries other meanings that in Barthes'terms are mythological.One of these is nationalidentity:food being appropriated as a sign of the culture.To be Japaneseis to eat Japanesefood, as so many Japaneseconfirm when they travel to other countriesand cite the greatestproblemthey encounterto be the absence of "real" Japanese food. Stated the other way around,rice is so symbolicallycentralto Japanese culture (meals and obentosoften being assembled with rice as the core and all otherdishes,multifarious as they may be, as mere complimentsor side dishes) that Japanesesay they can never feel full until they have consumedtheir rice at a particular meal or at least once duringthe day.' Embedded within this insistence on eating one as a memJapanesefood,therebyreconfirming ber of the culture,are the principlesby whichJapanese food is customarilyprepared:perfection,labor,smalldistinguishableparts,opposingsegments, beauty, and the stamp of nature. Overarchingall these moredetailedcodingsare two that guide the makingand ideologicalappropriationof the nursery schoolobentomostdirectly:1) thereis an order to the food: a right way to do things, with everything in its place and each place coordinatedwith every other,and 2) the one who preparesthe food takes on the responsibilityof producingfood to the standardsof perfectionand exactness that Japanese cuisine demands.Food may not be casual, in otherwords,nor the producercasualin her production. In these two rulesis a messageboth aboutsocial order and the role gender plays in sustaining and nourishingthat order. School, State, and Subjectivity In additionto languageand secondordermeanings I suggest that the ritualsand routinessurrounding obenrosin Japanesenurseryschools present,as it were, a third order,manipulation.This order is a use of a currencyalreadyestablished--onethat has already appropriateda language of utility (food feeds hunger)to expressand implantculturalbehaviors.State-guidedschoolsborrowthis codedapparatus:usingthe naturalconvenienceand coverof food not only to code a culturalorder,but also to socialize childrenand mothers into the gendered rolesand subjectivitiesthey are expectedto assume

in a political order desired and directed by the state. In moderncapitalistsocietiessuchas Japan,it is the school, accordingto Althusser,which assumesthe primaryrole of ideologicalstate apparatus. A greater segment of the populationspends longerhoursand more yearshere than in previous historicalperiods.Also educationhas now taken over from other institutions,such as religion,the pedagogicalfunctionof beingthe majorshaperand inculcatorof knowledgefor the society. Concurrently, as Althusserhas pointedout for capitalist modernism(1971: 152, 156), there is the gradual replacementof repressionby ideologyas the prime mechanismfor behaviorenforcement.Influenced less by the threatof force and moreby the devices that presentand informus of the worldwe live in and the subjectivitiesthat worlddemands,knowledge and ideology become fused, and education emergesas the apparatusfor pedagogicaland ideological indoctrination. In practice,as schoolteacheschildrenhowand what to think,it also shapesthem for the rolesand positionsthey will later assume as adult members of the society. How the social order is organized through vectors of gender, power, labor, and/or class, in otherwords,is not only as importanta lesson as the basics of reading and writing, but is transmittedthroughand embeddedin those classroom lessons. Knowledgethus is not only socially constructed,but also differentiallyacquiredaccording to who one is or will be in the politicalsociety one will enterin lateryears.Whatpreciselysociety requiresin the way of workers,citizens, and parents will be the conditiondeterminingor influencing instructionin the schools. This latterequation,of course,dependson two factors:1) the convergenceor divergenceof different interestsin whatis desiredas subjectivities,and 2) the powerany particularinterest,includingthat of the state, has in exertingits desiresfor subjects on or throughthe systemof education.In the case of Japan, the state wields enormouscontrolover the systematizationof education.Throughits Ministry of Education(Monbushu),one of the most powerfuland influentialministriesin the government, educationis centralizedand managedby a state bureaucracythat regulatesalmost every as: pect of the educationalprocess.On any given day, for example,what is taught in every publicschool followsthe same curriculum,adheresto the same structure,and is informedby textbooksfrom the

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JAPANESE MOTHERSAND OBENTOS prescribedlist. Teachers are nationallyscreened, school boards uniformly appointed (rather than elected), and students institutionallyexhorted to obey teachersgiventheir legal authority,for example, to write secret reports(naishinsho),that may obstructa student'sentranceinto high school.4 The role of the state in Japaneseeducationis not limited,however,to such extensivebut codified authoritiesgranted to the Ministryof Education. Even more powerful is the principle of the "gakurekishakkai" (lit. academic pedigreesociety) by which careersof adults are determinedby the schoolsthey attendas youth. A reflectionand constructionof the new economicorderof post-war Japan,"school attendancehas become the single most importantdeterminantof who will achieve the most desirablepositionsin industry,government, and the professions.Schoolattendanceis itself based on a single criterion:a system of entrance exams which determinesentranceselection and it is to this end-preparation for exams-that school,even at the nurseryschoollevel, is increasingly oriented.Learningto followdirections,do as one is told, and "ganbaru"(Asanuma1987) are social imperatives, sanctioned by the state, and taught in the schools. Nursery School and Ideological Appropriation of

the Obento The nurseryschool standsoutsidethe structureof compulsory education in Japan. Most nursery schoolsare private;and, thoughnot compelledby the state, a greaterproportionof the three to sixyear old populationof Japan attends pre-school than in any other industrializednation (Tobin 1989; Hendry1986; Boocock1989). Differentiatedfrom the hoikuen,anotherpreschool institutionwith longerhourswhich is more like daycare than school,6 the yochien (nursery school) is widely perceivedas instructional,not necessarilyin a formalcurriculumbut morein indoctrinationto attitudesand structuresof Japanese schooling.Childrenlearn less about reading and writingthan they do about how to becomea Japanese student, and both parts of this formula-Japanese and student-are equally stressed.As Rohlen has written, "social order is generated"in the nurseryschool, first and foremost, by a systemof routines(1989: 10, 21). Educational routines and rituals are therefore of heightened importancein yochien, for whereas


these routines and rituals may be the format throughwhichsubjectsare taughtin highergrades, they are both form and subjectin the yochien. While the state (throughits agency,the Ministry of Education)has no direct mandate over nurseryschoolattendance,its influenceis nevertheless significant. First, authority over how the yochien is run is in the hands of the Ministryof Education.Second,most parentsand teacherssee the yochienas the first step to the systemof compulsoryeducationthat startsin the firstgradeand is closelycontrolledby Monbusho.The principalof the yochien my son attended,for example,stated that he saw his mainduty to be preparingchildren to enter moreeasily the rigorsof publiceducation soon to come. Third, the rules and patterns of "groupliving"(shadanseikatsu),a Japanesesocial ideal that is reiteratednationwideby politicalleaders, corporatemanagement,and marriagecounselors, is first introducedto the child in nursery school.' The entryinto nurseryschoolmarksa transition both away from home and into the "real world,"which is generallyjudged to be difficult, even traumatic, for the Japanese child (Peak 1989). The obentris intendedto ease a child'sdiscomfitureand to allow a child's motherto manufacture somethingof herself and the home to accompany the child as s/he moves into the potentiallythreateningoutsideworld.Japaneseuse the culturalcategoriesof soto and uchi;soto connotes the outside, which in being distancedand other, is dirty and hostile;and uchi identifiesas clean and comfortablewhat is inside and familiar. The schoolfalls initiallyand, to some degree,perpetually, into a category of soto. What is ultimately the definitionand locationof uchi, by contrast, is the home, where family and mother reside.8By producingsomethingfrom the home,a motherbothgirdsand goadsher child to face what is inevitablein the worldthat lies beyond.This is the mother'srole and her gift; by givingof herself and the home (whichshe both symbolicallyrepresents and in reality manages"),the soto of the schoolis, if not transformedinto the uchi of home, made more bearableby this sign of domesticand maternalheartha child can bringto it. The obento is filled with the meaning of motherand homein a numberof ways.The firstis by sheerlabor.Womenspendwhat seemsto be an inordinateamountof time on the productionof this one item. As an experiencedobentomaker,I can

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attest to the intenseattentionand energydevoted to this one chore. On the average,mothersspend 20-45 minutes every morningcooking,preparing, and assemblingthe contentsof one obentofor one nurseryschool-agedchild. In addition,the previous day they have planned,shopped,and often organized a suppermeal with left-oversin mind for the next day's obento. Frequentlywomen'0 discuss obentoideas with othermothers,scan obentmcookbooks or magazinesfor recipes,buy or make objects with which to decorateor contain (part of) the obento,and perhapsmake small food portions to freeze and retrievefor futureobento." Of course, effort alone does not necessarily Casualnesswas never producea successfulobentW. indulged,I observed,and even motherswith children who wouldeat anythingpreparedobentosas elaborateas anyoneelse's. Such labor is intended for the child but also the mother:it is a sign of a woman'scommitmentas a motherand her inspiring her childto beingsimilarlycommittedas a student. The obento is thus a representationof what the motheris and what the child shouldbecome.A model for school is added to what is gift and reminderfrom home. Thisequationis spelledout morepreciselyin a nursery school rule-all of the obento must be eaten. Thoughon the face of it this is petty and mundane,the injunctionis taken very seriouslyby nurseryschool teachersand is one not easily realized by very small children.The logic is that it is time for the childto meet certainexpectations.One of the mainagendasof the nurseryschool,after all, is to introduceand indoctrinatechildreninto the patternsand rigorsof Japaneseeducation(Rohlen 1989;Sano 1989;Lewis 1989). And Japaneseeducation, by all accounts, is not about fun (Duke 1986). Learningis hard work with few choices or pleasures.Even obentosfrom home stop once the child entersfirstgrade.'2The mealsthereare institutional:largely bland,'unappealing,and prepared with only nutritionin mind. To ease a youngster into these upcoming(educational,social, disciplinary, culinary) routines, yochien obents are designedto be pleasingand personal.The obentois also designed,however,as a test for the child. And the double meaningis not unintentional.A structure already filled with a significationof mother and home is then emptiedto providea new form: one now also writtenwith the ideologicaldemands of beinga memberof Japanesecultureas well as a

viable and successful Japanesein the realms of schooland later work. The exhortation to consume one's entire obent'3 is articulatedand enforcedby the nursery school teacher.Makinghigh dramaout of eating by, for example,singinga song;collectivelythanking Buddha (in the case of Buddhist nursery schools),one's motherfor makingthe obentv,and one's father for providingthe means to make the obentm;havingtwo assignedclass helperspourthe tea, the class eats togetheruntil everyonehas finished.The teacherexaminesthe children'sobentvs, makingsure the food is all consumed,and encouraging, sometimesscolding,childrenwho are taking too long.Slow eatersdo not fare well in this ritual, becausethey hold up the other students,who as a peer group also monitora child's eating. My son oftencomplainedabouta childwhoseslownessover food meantthat the otherswerekept inside(rather than being allowedto play on the playground)for much of the lunch period. Ultimately and officially, it is the teacher, however,whose role and authorityit is to watch overfoodconsumptionand to judgethe personconsumingfood. Her surveillancecoversboth the student and the mother, who in the matter of the obentv, must work together.The child'sjob is to eat the food and the mother'sto prepareit. Hence, the responsibilityand executionof one'stask is not only sharedbut conditionedby the other.My son's teacher would talk with me daily about the progress he was making finishing his obentos. Although the overt subject of discussionwas my child, most of what was said was directedto me: what I could do in orderto get David to consume his lunch more easily. The intensityof these talks struckme at the time as curious.We had just settled in Japanand David, a highly verbalchild, was attendinga foreign school in a foreign languagehe had not yet mastered;he was the only non-Japanesechild in the school.Many of his behaviorsduringthis time weredisruptive:for example,he went up and down the line of childrenduringmorningexerciseshitting each child on the head. Hamada-sensei(the teacher), however,chose to discuss the obentos.I thoughtsurely David'ssurvivalin and adjustment to this environmentdependedmuch moreon other. factors,such as learningJapanese.Yet it was the obentmthat was discussedwith such recallof detail ("Davidate all his peas today,but not a singlecarrot until I asked him to do so three times") and

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seriousnessthat I assumedher attentionwas being misplaced. The manifest reference was to boxlunches,but was not the latent referenceto something else?"1 Of course,there was anothermessage,for me and my child. It was an injunctionto followdirections, obey rules, and accept the authorityof the school system. All of the latter were embeddedin and inculcatedthroughcertainrituals:the nursery school,as any school(exceptsuch non-conventional ones as Waldorfand Montessori)and practically any socialor institutionalpracticein Japan,was so heavilyritualizedand ritualisticthat the very form of ritual took on a meaningand value in and of itself (Rohlen 1989:21, 27-8). Both the schoolday and school year of the nurseryschoolwere organized by these rituals.The day, apartfrom two free periods,for,example,was brokenby discreteroutines-morning exercises,arts and crafts, gym instruction,singing-most of whichwere namedand scheduled.The schoolyear was also segmentedinto and marked by three annual events-sports day (undokai) in the fall, winter assembly (seikatsu happyokai)in December,and dance festival (bon odori) in the summer.Energy was galvanizedby these rituals,whichdemandeda degreeof orderas well as a disciplineand self-controlthat non-Japanese wouldfind remarkable. Significantly,David'steachermarkedhis successful integrationinto the school system by his masterynot of the languageor otherculturalskills, but of the school'sdaily routines-walking in line, brushinghis teeth after eating, arrivingat school early, eagerly participatingin greetingand departure ceremonies,and completingall of his obento on time. Not only had he adjustedto the school structure,but he had also become assimilatedto the otherchildren.Or restated,whatonce had been externallyenforcednow becameideologicallydesirable; the everydaypracticeshad movedfrom being alien (soto) to familiar(uchi) to him, from,that is, being someone else's to his own. My American child had to become,in some sense, Japanese,and wherehis teacherrecognizedthis Japanesenesswas in the daily routinessuch as finishinghis obento. The lesson learnedearly, which David learnedas well, is that not adheringto routinessuch as completingone's obentoon time leads to not only admonishmentfrom the teacher, but rejectionfrom the other students. The nurseryschool system differentiatesbetween the child who does and the child who does


not managethe multifariousand constantritualsof nurseryschool.And for those who do not manage there is a penaltywhich the child learnseither to avoid or wish to avoid.Seeking the acceptanceof his peers, the student developsthe aptitude,willingness,and in the case of my son-whose outspokennessand individualitywere the characteristics most notedin this culture-even the desireto conformto the highlyorderedand structuredpractices of nurseryschool life. As Althusser(1971) wrote aboutideology:the mechanismworkswhenand because ideas aboutthe worldand particularroles in that world that serve other (social, political,economic, state) agendas become familiar and one's own. Rohlen makes a similar point: that what is taughtand learnedin nurseryschoolis socialorder. Called shudanseikatsuor grouplife, it means organizationinto a groupwherea person'ssubjectivity is determinedby group membershipand not "the assumptionof choice and rationalself-interest" (1989: 30). A child learnsin nurseryschoolto be with others,thinklike others,and act in tandem with others.This lessonis taughtprimarilythrough the precisionand constancyof basic routines:"Order is shapedgraduallyby repeatedpracticeof selected daily tasks . . . that socialize the children to

high degreesof neatnessand uniformity"(p. 21). Yet a feeling of coercivenessis rarelyexperienced by the childwhenthreeprinciplesof nurseryschool instructionare in place: 1) school routines are made "desirableand pleasant" (p. 30), 2) the teacherdisguisesher authorityby trying to make the groupthe voice and unit of authority,and 3) the regimentationof the schoolis administeredby an attitudeof "intimacy"on the part of the teachers and administrators(p. 30). In short,when the desiresand routinesof the schoolare madeinto the desires and routinesof the child, they are made acceptable. Mothering Apparatus





The rituals surroundingthe obento'sconsumption in the schoolsituatewhat ideologicalmeaningsthe transmitsto the child. The processof proobento ductionwithinthe home,by contrast,organizesits somewhat different ideological package for the mother.While the two sets of meaningsare intertwined,the motheris faced with differentexpectations in the preparationof the obentm than the

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child is in its consumption. At a pragmatic level the child must simply eat the lunch box, whereas the mother's job is far more complicated. The onus for her is getting the child to consume what she has made, and the general attitude is that this is far more the mother's responsibility (at this nursery school, transitional stage) than the child's. And this is no simple or easy task. Much of what is written, advised, and discussed about the obento has this aim explicitly in mind: that is making food in such a way as to facilitate the child's duty to eat it. One magazine advises: rhe first day of taking obent' is a worrisomething for motherand "boku"(child'G)too. Put in easy-to-eatfoods that your child likes and is already used to and prepare this food in small portions(Shufunotomo1980: 28).

Filled with pages of recipes, hints, pictures, and ideas, the magazine codes each page with "helpful" headings: - First off, easy-to-eatis step one. - Next is being able to consumethe obent' withoutleaving anythingbehind. - Make it in such a way for the child to becomeproficient in the use of chopsticks. - Decorate and fill it with cute dreams (kawairashi yume). - For older classes (nencha), make obent'5filled with variety. - Once he's become used to it, balance foods your child likes with those he dislikes. - For kids who hate vegetables.... - For kids who hate fish. ... - For kids who hate meat. . . (pp. 28-53).

Laced throughout cookbooks and other magazines the devoted to guidelines issued by obento obento, the school and sent home in the school flier every two weeks, and the words of Japanese mothers and teachers discussing obentW,are a number of principles: 1) food should be made easy to eat: portions cut or made small and manipulable with fingers or chopsticks, (child-size) spoons and forks, skewers, toothpicks, muffin tins, containers, 2) portions should be kept small so the obentm can be consumed quickly and without any left-overs, 3) food that a child does not yet like should be eventually added so as to remove fussiness (sukikirai) in food habits, 4) make the obentv pretty, cute, and visually changeable by presenting the food attractively and by adding non-food objects such as silver paper, foil, toothpick flags, paper napkins, cute handkerchiefs, and variously shaped containers for

soy sauce and ketchup, and 5) design obentv-related items as much as possible by the mother's own hands including the obentzr bag in which the (obentofukuro) obento is carried. The strictures propounded by publications seem to be endless. In practice I found that visual appearance and appeal were stressed by the mothers. By contrast, the directive to use obento as a training process-adding new foods and getting older children to use chopsticks and learn to tie the furoshikil'-was emphasized by those judging the obento at the school. Where these two sets of concerns met was, of course, in the child's success or failure completing the this outobento. Ultimately come and the mother's role in it, was how the obento was judged in my experience. The aestheticization of the obentWis by far its most intriguing aspect for a cultural anthropologist. Aesthetic categories and codes that operate generally for Japanese cuisine are applied, though adjusted, to the nursery school format. Substances are many but petite, kept segmented and opposed, and manipulated intensively to achieve an appearance that often changes or disguises the food. As a mother insisted to me, the creation of a bear out of miniature hamburgers and rice, or a flower from an apple or peach, is meant to sustain a child's interest in the underlying food. Yet my child, at least, rarely noticed or appreciated the art I had so laboriously contrived. As for other children, I observed that even for those who ate with no obvious "fussiness," mothers' efforts to create food as style continued all year long. Thus much of a woman's labor over obento stems from some agenda other than that of getting the child to eat an entire lunch-box. The latter is certainly a consideration and it is the rationale as well as cover for women being scrutinized by the school's authority figure-the teacher. Yet two other factors are important. One is that the obento is but one aspect of the far more expansive and continuous commitment a mother is expected to make for and to her child. "Kyoiku mama" (education mother) is the term given to a mother who executes her responsibility to oversee and manage the education of her children with excessive vigor. And yet this excess is not only demanded by the state even at the level of the nursery school; it is conventionally given by mothers. Mothers who manage the home and children, often in virtual absence of a husband/father, are considered the factor that may make or break a child as s/he ad-

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JAPANESE MOTHERSAND OBENT7S vances towards that pivotal point of the entrance examinations.17

In this sense, just as the obento is meant as a device to assist a child in the struggles of first adjusting to school, the mother's role generally is perceived as being the support, goad, and cushion for the child. She will perform endless tasks to assist in her child's study: sharpen pencils and make midnight snacks as the child studies, attend cram schools to verse herself in subjects her child is weak in, make inquiries as to what school is most appropriate for her child, and consult with her child's teachers. If the child succeeds, a mother is complimented; if the child fails, a mother is blamed. Thus at the nursery school level, the mother starts her own preparation for this upcoming role. Yet the jobs and energies demanded of a nursery school mother are, in themselves, surprisingly consuming. Just as the mother of an entering student is given a book listing all the pre-entry tasks she must complete, for example, making various bags and containers, affixing labels to all clothes in precisely the right place and with the size exactly right, she will be continually expected thereafter to attend Mothers' Association meetings, accompany children on fieldtrips, wash the clothes and indoor shoes of her child every week, add required items to a child's bag on a day's notice, and generally be available. Few mothers at the school my son attended could afford to work in even part-time or temporary jobs. Those women who did tended either to keep their outside work a secret or be reprimanded by a teacher for insufficient devotion to their child. Motherhood, in other words, is institutionalized through the child's school and such routines as making the obento as a full-time, kept-athome job.'8 The second factor in a woman's devotion to over-elaborating her child's lunch-box is that her experience doing this becomes a part of her and a statement, in some sense, of who she is. Marx writes that labor is the most "essential" aspect to our species-being and that the products we produce are the encapsulation of us and therefore our productivity (1970: 71-76). Likewise, women are what they are through the products they produce. An obent therefore is not only a gift or test for a child, but a representation and product of the woman herself. Of course, the two ideologically converge, as has been stated already, but I would also suggest that there is a potential disjoining. I sensed that the women were laboring for themselves apart


from the agenda the obento was expected to fill at school. Or stated alternatively, in the role that females in Japan are highly pressured and encouraged to assume as domestic manager, mother, and wife, there is, besides the endless and onerous responsibilities, also an opportunity for play. Significantly, women find play and creativity not outside their social roles but within them. Saying this is not to deny the constraints and surveillance under which Japanese women labor at their obento. Like their children at school, they are watched by not only the teacher but each other, and perfect what they create, partially at least, so as to be confirmed as a good and dutiful mother in the eyes of other mothers. The enthusiasm with which they absorb this task then is like my son's acceptance and internalization of the nursery school routines; no longer enforced from outside it becomes adopted as one's own. The making of the obentmis, I would thus argue, a double-edged sword for women. By relishing its creation (for all the intense labor expended, only once or twice did I hear a mother voice any complaint about this task), a woman is ensconcing herself in the ritualization and subjectivity (subjection) of being a mother in Japan. She is alienated in the sense that others will dictate, inspect, and manage her work. On the reverse side, however, it is precisely through this work that the woman expresses, identifies, and constitutes herself. As Althusser pointed out, ideology can never be totally abolished (1971: 170); the elaborations that women work on "natural" food produce an obento which is creative and, to some degree, a fulfilling and personal statement of themselves. Minami, an informant, revealed how both restrictive and pleasurable the daily rituals of motherhood can be. The mother of two children-one, aged three and one, a nursery school student, Minami had been a professional opera singer before marrying at the relatively late age of 32. Now, her daily schedule was organized by routines associated with her child's nursery school: for example, making the obento, taking her daughter to school and picking her up, attending Mothers' Association meetings, arranging daily play dates, and keeping the school uniform clean. While Minami wished to return to singing, if only on a part-time basis, she said that the demands of motherhood, particularly those imposed by her child's attendance at nursery school, frustrated this desire. Secretly snatching only minutes out of any day to

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practice,Minamimissedsingingand told me that being a motherin Japanmeansthe exclusionof almost anythingelse.1" Despitethis frustration,however,Minamidid not behavelike a frustratedwoman.Rathershe devoted to her motheringan energy, creativity,and intelligenceI foundto be standardin the Japanese mothers I knew. She plannedspecial outings for her childrenat least two or threetimes a week, organizedgames that she knew they wouldlike and wouldteach them cognitiveskills, createdher own stories and designedcostumesfor afternoonplay, and shoppeddaily for the meals she preparedwith her children'sfavoritefoods in mind. Minamitold me often that she wishedshe could sing more,but neveronce did she complainabouther children,the choresof child-raising,or being a mother.The attentivenessdisplayedotherwisein her mothering was exemplifiedmost fully in Minami'sobentws. No two were ever alike, each had at least four or five parts, and she kept trying out new ideas for both new foods and new designs.She took prideas well as pleasurein her obentohandicraft;but while Minami'sobento creativitywas impressive,it was not unusual. Examples of such extraordinaryobentwcreations from an obentwmagazineinclude:1) ("donut obentv"):two donuts,two wienerscut to look like a worm, two cut pieces of apple, two small cheese rolls, one hard-boiledegg made to look like a rabbitwith leaf ears and pickleeyes and set in an aluminummuffintin, cute papernapkinadded, 2) (wiener doll obenro):a bed of rice with two doll creationsmade out of wienerparts (each consists of eight pieces comprisinghat, hair, head, arms, body, legs), a line of pink ginger, a line of green parsley,paperflag of Franceadded, 3) (vegetable flowerand tulip obenro):a bed of rice laced with choppedhard-boiledegg, three tulip flowersmade out of cut wienerswith spinachpreciselyarranged as stem and leaves, a fruit salad with two raisins, threecookedpeaches,threepiecesof cookedapple, 4) (sweetheart doll obentr-abekku ningyo no obentv):in a two-sectionobenrobox there are four rice balls on one side, each with a differentcenter, on the otherside are two dolls madeof quail'seggs for heads,eyes and mouthadded,bodiesof cucumber, arrangedas if lying downwith two rawcarrots for the pillow, covers made of one flower-cut cookedcarrot,two pieces of ham, pieces of cooked spinach,and with differentcoloredplastic skewers holdingthe dolls together(Shufunotomo1980:27,

30). The impulse to work and re-worknature in these obentois most obviousperhapsin the strategies used to transform,shape, and/or disguise foods.EverymotherI knewcame up with her own repertoireof such techniques,and every obento magazineor cookbookI examinedoffereda special sectionon these devices.It is importantto keep in mind that these are treatedas only flourishes:embellishmentsaddedto partsof an obentycomposed of many parts. The followingis a list from one magazine:lemonpieces made into butterflies,hard boiledeggs into daruma (popularJapaneselegendary figureof a monk without his eyes), sausage cut into flowers,a hard-boiledegg decoratedas a baby,an applepiece cut into a leaf, a radishflaked into a flower, a cucumbercut like a flower, a mikan (nectarineorange) piece arrangedinto a basket,a boat with a sail made from a cucumber, skeweredsausage,radishshapedlike a mushroom, a quail egg flaked into a cherry, twisted mikan piece, sausage cut to becomea crab, a patterned cucumber,a ribboned.carrot, a floweredtomato, cabbageleaf flower,a potatocut to be a worm,a carrotdesignedas a red shoe,an applecut to simulate a pineapple(pp. 57-60). Nature is not only transformedbut also supplementedby store-boughtor mother-madeobjects which are preciselyarrangedin the obento. The former come from an entire industry and commodificationof the obentoprocess:completeracks or sectionsin storessellingobentvboxes,additional small containers,obentobags, cups, chopstickand utensilcontainers(all these with variouscute characters or designs on the front), cloth and paper napkins, foil, aluminum tins, colored ribbon or string,plasticskewers,toothpickswith paperflags, and paper dividers. The latter are the objects mothers are encouragedand praised for making themselves: obentu bags, napkins, and handkerchiefswith appliqueddesignsor the child's name embroidered.These supplementsto the food, the arrangementof the food, and the obentobox's dividingwalls (removableand adjustable)furnish the order of the obento. Everythingappearscrisp and neat with each part kept in its own place:two tiny hamburgersset firmlyatop a bed of rice;vegetables in a separatecompartmentin the box; fruit arrangedin a muffintin. How the specificformsof obentoartistry-for example,a wienercut to look like a wormand set withina muffintin-are encodedsymbolicallyis a

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fascinatingsubject. Limited here by space, how- who are not only sustaininga child throughfood ever, I will only offerinitial suggestions.Arranging but carryingthe ideologicalsupportof the culture that this food embeds.No Japaneseman I spoke food into a scene recognizableby the child was an ideal mentionedby many mothersand cookbooks. with had or desired the experienceof making a Why those of animals, human beings, and other nursery school obentmeven once, and few were food forms (making a pineappleout of an apple, more than peripherallyengagedin their children's for example) predominatemay have no other raeducation.The male is assigneda positionin the outside worldwhere he laborsat a job for money tionale than being familiarto childrenand easily and is expectedto be primarilyidentifiedby and re-producedby mothers.Yet it is also true that this committedto his place of work.20Helping in the tendencyto use a trope of realism-casting food into realistic figures-is most prevalent in the managementof home and raising of childrenhas meals Japanesepreparefor theirchildren.Mothers not becomean obviousmale concernor interestin I knew createdanimalsand faces in suppermeals Japan,even as more and more womenenter what and/or obentmsmade for other outings, yet their was previouslythe male domainof work.Females have remainedat and as the centerof home in Jaimpulse to do this seemed not only heightenedin the obenmthat were sent to schoolbut also played pan and this messagetoo is explicitlytransmitted down in food preparedfor other age groups. in both the productionand consumptionof entirely What is consistentin Japanesecookinggener- female-produced obentm. The state accruesbenefitsfrom this arrangeally, as stated earlier, are the dual principlesof ment. Withchildrendependingon the laborwomen manipulationand order. Food is manipulatedinto someotherformthan it assumeseithernaturallyor devote to their motheringto such a degree, and uponbeingcooked:lines are put into mashedpota- women being pressuredas well as pleasurizedin such routinematernalproductionsas makingthe toes, carrots are flaked, wieners are twisted and sliced. Also, food is orderedby some humanrather obentr--both effects encouragedand promotedby than naturalprinciple;everythingmust have neat institutional features of the educationalsystem boundariesand be placedpreciselyso those bound- heavily state-runand at least ideologicallyguided aries do not merge. These two structuresare the at even the nurseryschoollevel-a gendereddiviones most importantin shapingthe nurseryschool sion of labor is firmly set in place. Labor from obentoas well, and the inclinationto designrealis- males, socializedto be compliantand hard-worktic imagery is primarilya means by which these ing, is more extractablewhen they have wives to otherculinarycodesare learnedby and madeplearely on for almostall domesticand familial mansurablefor the child. The simulacrumof a pineap- agement. And females becomea source of cheap ple recreatedfrom an apple thereforeis less about labor, as they are increasinglyforcedto enter the seeing the pineapple in an apple (a particular labormarketto pay domesticcosts (includingthose the appleinto vast debts incurredin educatingchildren)yet are form)and moreaboutreconstructing somethingelse (the processof transformation). increasinglyconstrainedto low-payingpart-time The intenselabor,management,commodifica- jobs becauseof the domesticdutiesthey must also bear almosttotally as mothers. tion, and attentivenessthat goes into the makingof an obentolaces it, however,with manyand various Hence, not only do females,as mothers,operate within the ideologicalstate apparatusof Jameanings.Overarchingall is the potentialto aestheticizea certainsocialorder,a socialorderwhich pan'sschoolsystemthat starts semi-officially,with is coded (in culturaland culinaryterms) as Japa- the nurseryschool,they also operateas an ideologinese. Not only is a mother making food more cal state apparatusuntothemselves.Motherhoodis state ideology,workingthroughchildrenat home palatableto her nurseryschoolchild,but she is creand at school and throughsuch mother-imprinted ating food as a more aestheticand pleasingsocial structure.The obentr'smessageis that the worldis labor that a child carriesfrom home to school as constructedvery preciselyand that the role of any with the obento.Hencethe post-WorldWarII consingle Japanesein that world must be carriedout ceptionof Japaneseeducationas beingegalitarian, with the samedegreeof precision.Productionis dedemocratic,and with no agenda of or for gender manding;and the producermust both keep within differentiation,does not in practicestandup. Conthe bordersof her/his role and workhard. cealed within such cultural practicesas culinary The messageis also that it is women,not men, style and child-focussedmothering,is a worldview

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in whichthe positionand behavioran adultwill assume has everythingto do with the anatomyshe/ he was bornwith. At the end, however,I am left with one question. If motherhoodis not only watched and manipulatedby the state but madeby it into a conduit for ideological indoctrination, could *not women subvertthe political order by redesigning obento? Asking this question, a Japanesefriend, upon readingthis paper, recalled her own experiences. Thoughher motherhad been conventional in most other respects, she made her children obentosthat did not conformto the prevailingconventions. Basic, simple, and rarely artistic, Sawa

also noted, in this connection,that the lines of these obentos resembledthose by which she was generally raised: as gender-neutral,treated as a person not "just as a girl," and being allowed a marginto thinkfor herself.Todayshe is an exceptionallyindependentwomanwho has createda life for herself in America,away from homelandand parents,almostentirelyon her own. She lovesJapanese food, but the plainobentosher mothermade for her as a child,she is newlyappreciativeof now, as an adult. The obentosfed her, but did not keep her culturallyor ideologicallyattached. For this, Sawa says today, she is glad.

NOTES AcknowledgmentsThe fieldworkon which this article is based was supportedby a Japan FoundationPostdoctoralFellowship. I am gratefulto CharlesPiot for a thoughtfulreadingand useful suggestionsfor revisionand to JenniferRobertsonfor inviting my contributionto this issue. I would also like to thank Sawa Kurotanifor her many ethnographicstories and input, and PhyllisChockand two anonymousreadersfor the valuable contributionsthey made to revisionof the manuscript. 'As Dorinne Kondo has pointed out, however, these cuisinalprinciplesmay be conditionedby factorsof both class and circumstance.Her shitamachi (more traditionalarea of Tokyo) informants,for example,adheredonly casually to this codingand other Japaneseshe knewfollowedthem morecarefully when preparingfood for guests rather than family and when eating outsideratherthan inside the home (Kondo 1990: 61-2). 2Rice is often, if not always, included in a meal; and it may substantiallyas well as symbolicallyconstitutethe core of the meal. When served at a table it is put in a large pot or electric rice maker and will be spoonedinto a bowl, still no bigger or predominantthan the many other containersfrom which a personeats. In an obent- rice may be in one, perhaps the largest,section of a multi-sectionedobent- box, yet it will be arrangedwith a variety of other foods. In a sense rice provides the syntactic and substantialcenter to a meal yet the presentationof the food rarely emphasizesthis core. The rice bowl is refilledratherthan heapedas in the preformedobent-o box, and in the obentarice is often embroidered,supplemented, and/or coveredwith other foodstuffs. sJapanesewill both endurea high price for rice at home and resist Americanattemptsto exportrice to Japan in order to stay domesticallyself-sufficientin this nationalfood qua cultural symbol. Rice is the only foodstuffin which the Japanese have retainedself-sufficientproduction. 4The primarysourceson educationused are Horio 1988; Duke 1986; Rohlen 1983; Cummings1980. "Neitherthe state's role in overseeingeducationnor a system of standardizedtests is a new developmentin post-World War II Japan. What is new is the nationalstandardizationof tests and, in this sense, the intensifiedrole the state has thus assumed in overseeing them. See Dore (1965) and Horio (1988). 6Boocock(1989) differs from Tobin et al. (1989) on this pointand assertsthat the institutionaldifferencesare insignificant. She describesextensivelyhow both y'chien and hoikuen

are administered (y'chien are under the authority of Monbush5 and hoikuen are under the authority of the KUseish-,the Ministryof Health and Welfare) and how both feed into the largersystemof education.She emphasizesdiversity: though certain trends are common amongst preschools, differencesin teachingstyles and philosophiesare plentifulas well. 7Accordingto Rohlen(1989), familiesare incapableof indoctrinatingthe child into this social pattern of sh'indanseikatsu by their very structureand particularlyby the relationship (of indulgenceand dependence)betweenmother and child. For this reason and the importanceplaced on group structuresin Japan,the nurseryschool'sprimaryobjective,argues Rohlen,is teachingchildrenhow to assimilateinto groups. For furtherdiscussionof this point see also Peak 1989; Lewis 1989; Sano 1989; and the Journal of Japanese Studies issue [15(1)] devotedto Japanesepreschooleducationin whichthese articles, includingBoocock's,are published. 'For a succinct anthropologicaldiscussionof these concepts, see Hendry(1987: 39-41). For an architecturalstudy of Japan's managementand organizationof space in terms of such culturalcategoriesas uchi and soto, see Greenbie(1988). 9Endlessstudies,reports,surveys,and narrativesdocument the close tie betweenwomenand home;domesticityand femininity in Japan.A recent internationalsurveyconductedfor a Japanesehousingconstructionfirm,for example,polledcouples with workingwives in three cities, findingthat 97% (of those polled) in Tokyo preparedbreakfastfor their families almost daily (comparedwith 43% in New Yorkand 34% in London); 70% shoppedfor grocerieson a daily basis (3% in New York, 14% in London),and that only 22% of them had husbands who assistedor were willing to assist with housework(62% in New York, 77% in London) (quoted in Chicago Tribune 1991). For a recent anthropologicalstudy of Japanesehousewives in English, see Imamura(1987). Japanesesources include Juristo z'kan sogo tokushu 1985; Mirai shakan 1979; Ohirasarino seifu kenky'kai 3. 1OMycomments pertain directly, of course, to only the women I observed,interviewed,and interactedwith at the one private nurseryschool serving middle-classfamilies in urban Tokyo. The profusionof obent'-relatedmaterialsin the press plus the revelationsmade to me by Japaneseand observations made by other researchersin Japan(for example,Tobin 1989; Fallows 1990), however,substantiatethis as a more general phenomenon.

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JAPANESE MOTHERSAND OBENTOS "To illustratethis preoccupationand consciousness:during the time my son was not eating all his obent- many fellow mothersgave me suggestions,one motherlent me a magazine, his teacher gave me a full set of:obent' cookbooks(one per I season),and anothermothergave me a set of small frozenfood portionsshe had made in advancefor future obenlos. '2My son's teacher,Hamada-sensei,cited this explicitlyas one of the reasonswhy the obent' was such an importanttraining device for nursery school children. "Once they become ichinensei(first-graders)they'llbe faced with a varietyof food, preparedwithout elaborationor much spice, and will need to eat it within a delimitedtime period." '3Ananonymousreviewerquestionedwhethersuch emphasis placed on consumptionof food in nurseryschool leads to food problemsand anxieties in later years. Although I have heardthat anorexiais a phenomenonnow in Japan, I question its connectionto nurseryschoolobent's. Much of the meaning of the latter practice,as I interpretit, has to do with the interface between productionand consumption,and its gender linkage comes from the productionend (mothers making it) rather than the consumptionend (childreneating it). Hence while controlis taught throughfood, it is not a controllinked primarilyto females or bodily appearance,as anorexia may tend to be in this culture. "Fujita argues, from her experienceas a workingmother of a daycare(hoikuen) child, that the substanceof these daily talks betweenteacherand motheris intentionallyinsignificant. Her interpretationis that the mother is not to be overly involvedin nor too informedabout mattersof the school (1989). ""Boku"is a personalpronounthat males in Japanuse as a familiarreferenceto themselves.Those in close relationships with males-mothers and wives, for example-can use boku to referto their sons or husbands.Its use in this contextis telling. "'6nthe upper third grade of the nurseryschool (nench'a class; childrenaged five to six) my son attended,childrenwere


orderedto bringtheirobent' with chopsticksand not forksand spoons (considered easier to use) and in the traditional furoshiki (piece of cloth which enwrapsitems and is double tied to close it) instead of the easier-to-manage obent' bags with drawstrings.Bothfuroshiki and chopsticks(o-hashi) are consideredtraditionallyJapaneseand their usage marks not only greater effort and skills on the part of the childrenbut their enculturationinto being Japanese. 17For the mother'srole in the educationof her child, see, for example,White (1987). For an analysis,by a Japanese,of the intensedependenceon the motherthat is createdand cultivated in a child, see Doi (1971). For Japanesesourceson the mother-childrelationshipand the ideology (some say pathology) of Japanesemotherhood,see Yamamura(1971); Kawai (1976); Kytitoku(1981); Sorifu seihonen taisaku honbuhen shinsha (1981). Fujita'saccountof the ide(1981); KadeshobQ ology of motherhoodat the nurseryschool level is particularly interestingin this connection(1989). "'Womenare enteringthe labormarketin increasingnumbers yet the proportionto do so in the capacity of part-time workers(legally constitutingas much as thirty-fivehours per week but without the benefitsaccordedto full-time workers) has also increased.The choice of part-timeover full-timeemploymenthas much to do with a woman'ssimultaneousand almosttotal responsibilityfor the domesticrealm(Juristo1985; see also Kondo 1990). "'As Fujita(1989: 72-79) pointsout, workingmothersare treated as a separate category of mothers,and non-working mothersare expected,by definition,to be mothersfull time. 20Nakane'smuch quoted text on Japanesesociety states this male positionin structuralistterms (1970). Thoughdated, see also Vogel (1963) and Rohlen(1974) for descriptionsof the social roles for middle-class,urbanJapanesemales. For a succinct recent discussionof gender roles within the family, see Lock (1990).

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