Director-General, National Museum of Ethnology
The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) was opened in the Expo’70 Commemorative Park, Osaka, in 1977 as an inter-university
research institute with museum functions in the fields of cultural anthrophony and ethnology. This year marks the 40th anniversary of its opening.
The number of specimen materials that Minpaku has collected from all over the world during the last 40 years now reaches about 345,000.
This is the largest in the world in the ethnological collections built up after the late 20th century. Minpaku is also the largest ethnological museum in terms of facility size.
We have held a lecture meeting in Tokyo in the fall of every year since 2000 with the cooperation of Nikkei, Inc. Particularly since last year,
positioning it as a part of the activities in Minpaku’s ongoing special research project “Contemporary Civilization and the Future of Humanity,”
we plan the lecture meeting with intent to think together with you about various issues that contemporary civilization has. The theme for this lecture meeting is
“Cooking and Humans: Question the mature society again from food.”
Aim of the Public Lecture
For humans, “food” is an important means to sustain life. However, it also has become an essential element in building social
relationships and has come to have power to change the way the civilization that humanity has created should be amid ongoing globalization. This year’s
lecture meeting is to question again how human food should be from a perspective of “cooking.”
First, Dr. NOBAYASHI Atsushi raises a question about what is “cooking” for humans under the title of “Cooking in between Civilization and Culture.”
Subsequently, Dr. NAKASHIMA Yasuhiro explores the possibility of a new food system in the present age in which the imbalance phenomena
of satiation and hunger are being generated.
Then, Dr. UDAGAWA Taeko talks about how local cooking comes into existent today when globalization continues, based on her long-term fieldwork in Italy.
I expect to produce a new perspective for consideration of the relation between humans and food through today’s lecture meeting.
Research, collection, and exhibition at Minpaku
As well as conducting fieldwork around the world, 50 studies at Minpaku collect and preserve specimen materials, visual and audio materials,
and other materials and make them open to the public to understand the local people’s life and culture more deeply.
The permanent exhibition galleries in the Main Exhibition Building finished its nine-year complete renovation in March this year. If you ever come to Kansai, please
“experience” the reborn exhibition. We look forward to seeing you.
“Cooking in between Civilization and Culture”
Director-General, National Museum of Ethnology
Food, which has been a basic element for an organic individual to sustain life in the past, has come to have a role more than to meet
ecological and nutritional satisfaction for humanity. Food was the most primitive form of wealth, providing clues to create larger economic activities through
acts such as production (including gathering and hunting), storage, and exchange. Furthermore, the role of food as a means of communication, which is
typified by co-eating and gift exchange, has expanded its scope and has become an element to formulate the integration principle in the state or the community.
In recent years, it has become a diplomatic measure to deepen economic and political relations between nations as seen in “gastrodiplomacy.” In addition,
a distorted situation has been created in which while, although declining, the number of hungry people in the world has reached about 800 million people,
mass production and mass disposal of food resources create what has come to be called food loss.
In this lecture meeting, I want to use “cooking” as a perspective in considering a series of such issues over food.
Cooking is an act conducted only by humanity and is also an invention by humanity. Cooking increased varieties, quantities,
and combinations of food to take in and created technologies and techniques necessary for them. Moreover, it constructed social relationships such as
“a person to prepare” and “a person to eat,” and when, where and how to eat with whom became an important barometer to measure the social relationship.
An important meaning more than eating was added to preparing something to eat. Cooking is a fortune for humanity that has enriched human eating habits
and has supported food culture. At the same time, it has been deeply involved in the food production that imposes a burden on the environment as well as in
the embodiment and visualization of a desperate society.
Defining cooking as “a series of acts to recognize ecological resources from natural resources, to exploit them systematically,
and to consume food resources in accordance with the purpose” and understanding the acts as the cultural apparatus inherited from generation to generation,
I would like to consider what cooking, which exists in the interface between civilization and culture, has meant to humans.