The Incarnation of Despair on Planet Earth
Tags: Cancer, Cultural Changes, Dietary Concession, Dietary Subjugation, Fast Food, Ginza, KFC, Marketing, McDonalds, Mitsubishi, Nozomu Itoshiki, Obesity, Obsesity Epidemic, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Westernization, Westernization is such a joke
Dietary Concession is Dietary Subjugation
Since Japan has a chopstick-based cuisine and table etiquette, many Japanese find the full transition to a Western cuisine knife-and-fork-based table etiquette very intimidating. Fast food, with its “hands only” table etiquette, represents a face-saving alternative route to the appearance of westernization.
The marketing strategies of Western fast-food chains have been aimed at reinforcing an up-tempo and modern image. The first outlets were in the Ginza and other prominent places in Tokyo where the weel-to-do modern corporate Japanese congregate. Many Japanese corporate partners of Western fast-food chains have been associated with high-quality products in other areas – McDonalds with the presitgious Mitsukoshi Department Store, Kentucky Fried Chicken with Mitsubishi, Wimpy International with Toshoku. As a result, these corporations have been able to capitalize on their image to attract customers in the higher income groups.
Much of this business is franchised. Between 1975 and 1988 the number of food services chains increased from 77 to 294. The total number of stores exceeded 36,000 in 1988, a six-fold increase over the period. By 1986 there were over 2,000 hamburger chain outlets alone.
William Alexander Kerr, Marketing beef in Japan, 1994, p 152
The American Way of Death
The obsesity epidemic that began in the United States during the late 1970s is now spreading to the rest of the world, with fast food as one of its vectors. Between 1984 and 1993, the number of fast food restaurants in Great Britain roughly doubled – and so did the obesity rate among adults. The British now eat more fast food than any other nationality in Western Europe. They have also the highest obesity rate. The growing popularity of fast food is just one of many cultural changes that have been brought about by globalization. Nevertheless, it seems wherever America’s fast food chains go, waistlines start expanding.
In China, the proportion of overweight teenagers has roughly tripled in the past decade. In Japan, eating hamburgers and french fries has not made people any blonder, though it has made them fatter. Overweight people were once a rarity in Japan. The nation’s traditional diet of rice, fish, vegetables, and soy products has been deemed one of the healthiest in the world. An yet the Japanese are rapidly abandoning that diet. Consumption of red meat has been rising in Japan since the American occupation after World War II. The arrival of McDonald’s in 1971 accelerated the shift in Japanese eating habits. During the 1980s, the sale of fast food in Japan more than doubled; the rate of obesity among children soon doubled, too. Today about one-third of all Japanese men in their thirties – members of the nation’s first generation raised on Happy Meals and “Bi-gu Ma-kus’ – are overweight. Heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer, the principal “diseases of affluence”, have been linked to diets low in fiber and high in animal fats. Long common in the United States, these diseases are likely to become widespread in Japan as its fast food generation ages. More than a decade ago a study of middle-aged Japanese men who had settled in the United States found that their switch to a Western diet doubled their risk of heart disease and tripled their risk of stroke. For the men in the study, embracing and American way of life meant increasing the likehood of a premature death.
Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, 2001, p 242-243