Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2018

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS)


College of Arts and Sciences


Asia Pacific Studies

First Advisor

Professor John Nelson, University of San Francisco

Second Advisor

Professor Cindi Sturtz-Sreetharan, Arizona State University


This paper examines how national narratives of Japanese cuisine collide with the expectations, preferences, and perceptions of American consumers (particularly Northern California). The global economy has benefited the circulation of positive images of Japan managed by the Japanese government, but the commercialization of Japanese cuisine is also at odds with government efforts. In Japan, sushi is often synonymous with nigirizushi: sliced seafood and a daub of wasabi atop vinegared rice. As part of Japan’s washoku tradition, this singular image of sushi (allegedly) reflects the deepest essence of Japanese cultural sensibilities tied to simplicity, perfection, and nature. But in America, consumers’ deep-fried sensibilities mean sushi is synonymous with Americanized makizushi: sauce drenched, tempura stuffed rolls and other unorthodox ingredients. Using scholarly sources juxtapositioned against popular narratives and original fieldwork, I interrogate how authenticity has two meanings. While authenticity can refer to a sense of accuracy or expectation, such expectations can be established personally or by proxy via ‘experts’. I stress that while static food culture narratives are supported by some restaurateurs, many consciously make concessions to appeal to customers. I supplement my analysis of interviews with Japanese sushi chefs in popular documentaries with original surveys and interviews with two Non-Japanese who have a decade of experience working and running sushi restaurants in Northern California. Although focused on sushi as a case study, this paper engages with themes of nostalgia, tourism, media, politics and communications that highlight how there are many different currents that contribute to global consumption and exchange.


Special Thanks to Professor Cindi Sturtz-Sreetharan of Arizona State University, whose valuable input on this paper made a world of difference. And to Professor John Nelson of USF, who gave me his full support as my advisor all along the way.