Saturday, April 9, 2011

humanizing the quake (the "outsiders")

These etegami are actually part of my illustrated recipe series, but I have a special reason for posting them under the earthquake series title. I felt that it was worth reminding us all that Japan is a multi-cultural nation, despite what most Japanese kids are taught in school, and despite the occasional nonsense spouted by certain politicians. The recipes posted here represent two prefectures which have cultural traditions that are outside of the Japanese mainstream. Hokkaido, in the far north, and Okinawa in the far south.

The first recipe posted here features a wild plant that is commonly called ainu-negi (Ainu leek). Life in Hokkaido is rich with the legacy of the Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan. This legacy can be found in our local dialect, our food culture, our place names, and our worldview. Though the numbers of ethnic Ainu have dwindled, they are vocal and active, and contribute positively to modern Japanese society, economy and government.

To the far south, Okinawa prefecture has a somewhat complicated history as the Kingdom of Ryukyu prior to becoming an official prefecture of Japan in 1879. Their architecture, crafts, food culture, and traditional language is different from that of any other area of Japan. The second illustrated recipe, Goya Champuru, is an Okinawan dish that has become popular all over the country.

Apart from the peoples mentioned above, all over Japan there live permanent residents and naturalized citizens who are not ethnically or culturally mainstream. Some of us have lived here for many generations. Our lives are rooted here. We lived and died in past and present earthquakes and tsunamis. The burden to rebuild Japan is our burden too, and we bear it with pride.


  1. It is interesting what you do. Some people say Japan is homogeneous with single nature, but they are so varies!

    I admired from TV some old fishermen at Tohoku despite of their loss, they said that they want to recover and do the fishing work again at the same place. The want to "live" with Tunami. Kind of like accepting where they are coming from...

  2. Your illustrated recipes are breathtaking. I don't think I'd be brave enough to cook with them, though. My recipes often have remnants of sauce on them. These are too beautiful for that to happen.

    Your reflections on the state of diversity in Japan are well said. I admire your facility in expressing it. We are all richer for your doing so.

  3. The "outsiders" have the additional responsibility / honor of bringing the story of Japan to the rest of us. We (I) appreciate what you do.

  4. These are so beautiful. I love your work. I always learn something new every time I come here. I just ordered pages of Japanese paper. Oh my, I am in heaven!

  5. Beautiful recipes' cards! Nice insight on Japan!

  6. Hi Debbie,
    Thank you for comment on my blog.
    Besides my art blog, my project is to take photos and sell and upload on my sites. Some people in foreign countries think that all Japan was destroyed and radiated, which is not true, so during this time, I think about my job is to spread around other parts of Japanese pictures that have had no damage, and make people enjoy Japanese sceneries.

  7. What an interesting post. I realize that I, too, am guilty of thinking, when I see a Caucasian living in japan, that he or she must be an immigrant. How silly! I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and know many ethnicities of families that have been Californians for generations...of course the same is true all over! Thanks for your enlightening words.

  8. Hi Debbie,
    I just spend a very enjoyable and informative time looking at your blogs after you left a comment on mine. I had seen your painted recipes on They draw and cook as well as Illustration Friday but hadn't realized where your very distinctive and beautiful style came from. I will be visiting again! I'm pretty new to blogging and I'm loving the way the internet illustration community is worldwide.

  9. Beautiful work and post, thankyou for this!

  10. More beautifully illustrated recipes and lore.
    I actually feel your pride of Japan in every post and brushstroke.♥