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Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan$
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Eric Rath

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520262270

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520262270.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 23 October 2019

Of Knives and Men

Of Knives and Men

Cutting Ceremonies and Cuisine

(p.38) Chapter 2 Of Knives and Men
Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan

Eric C. Rath

University of California Press

At the same time that chefs in the employ of shoguns, elite warlords, and aristocrats in the fifteenth century were developing the arts of cooking and banqueting, they were also doing other, less conventional things with food in demonstrations called “knife ceremonies,” which produced inedible food sculptures. Studying inedible dishes such as these might seem counterintuitive in a history of cuisine, which explains why most culinary historians of Japan mention them only in passing, if at all. Knife ceremonies were one of several entertainments, like singing, storytelling, juggling, and the more serious Noh theater, performed to entertain the elite at banquets. Due to their long history and prominence in elite food culture, knife ceremonies are an important starting point for showing the connections between food and fantasy—raw ingredients and thinking about them—that were the ingredients for premodern Japanese cuisine. Moreover, knife ceremonies have religious significance, particularly in Buddhism and Shinto.

Keywords:   Japanese cuisine, cooking, banqueting, knife ceremonies, Shinto, Buddhism, food culture, fantasy, elite

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