Modern Japanese Cuisine

Food, Power and National Identity

by Katarzyna J. Cwiertka

Over the past two decades, the popularity of Japanese food in the West has increased immeasurably—a major contribution to the evolution of Western eating habits. But Japanese cuisine itself has changed significantly since pre-modern times, and the food we eat at trendy Japanese restaurants, from tempura to sashimi, is vastly different from earlier Japanese fare. Modern Japanese Cuisine examines the origins of Japanese food from the late nineteenth century to unabashedly adulterated American favorites like today’s California roll.

Katarzyna J. Cwiertka demonstrates that key shifts in the Japanese diet were, in many cases, a consequence of modern imperialism. Exploring reforms in military catering and home cooking, wartime food management and the rise of urban gastronomy, Cwiertka shows how Japan’s numerous regional cuisines were eventually replaced by a set of foods and practices with which the majority of Japanese today ardently identify.

The result of over a decade of research, Modern Japanese Cuisine is a fascinating look at the historical roots of some of the world’s best cooking and will provide appetizing reading for scholars of Japanese culture and foodies alike.


  • Reaktion Books; March 2007
  • ISBN: 9781861896209
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Modern Japanese Cuisine
  • Author: Katarzyna J. Cwiertka
  • Imprint: Reaktion Books

In The Press

"These are stories that will fascinate foodies and historians alike."
— Matthew Craggs, Sacramento News and Review

"Cwiertka here gives us a history that not only illustrates Japanese cuisine but also exposes the sociopolitical supports upon which it rests. Though properly scholarly, her account is also juicy in details that reveal the "traditional" diet to be something of a modern invention, and diet itself to be the work of sociology, economy, politics and other blind forces."
— Japan Times

"A gold mine of fascinating data. . . . Well-worth reading."
— Tom Baker, Yomiuri Shimbun

"A welcome addition. . . . This book will find an audience beyond scholars interested in Japanese food. It contains a great deal of historical information about intra-Asian cultural influences. It will thus be of interest to scholars in Asian studies, cultural studies, and popular history. . . . Cwiertka's book is a worthwhile and important addition to the growing corpus of material about Japanese cuisine and its influence worldwide."
— Michael Ashkenazi, Pacific Affairs

"This is a work to read and reread, as the detail is so rich. . . . It is a strong addition to the growing field of culinary studies and a fine demonstration of novel approaches in area studies as well."
— Merry I. White, Journal of Japanese Studies

"For scholars of Japan, serious lovers of Japanese food, and for anyone interested in the formation of modern cuisines, Cwiertka's account is both highly readable and essential."
— Eric C. Rath, Gastronomica


About The Author

Katarzyna J. Cwiertka is researcher in the Centre for Japanese and Korean Studies at Leiden University. She is coauthor of Yamazato: The Kaiseki Cuisine, Hotel Okura Amsterdam and coeditor of Asian Food: The Global and the Local.