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Ingrained Habits: The “Kitchen Cars,” American Wheat Promotion, and the Transformation of Japanese Diet and Identity, 1956-1960

  • Nathan Hopson (University of Bergen)
Thursday 16 March 2023
Leiden Lecture Series in Japanese Studies
On campus (Lipsius 1.52) and online via Zoom

This lecture will be held via Zoom: click here for the link.


This talk explores the history and politics of American-funded food demonstration buses (“kitchen cars”) in postwar Japan. Their express mission was to transform the Japanese national diet. At least in the short to medium term, the kitchen cars were a win-win for the US and Japan. Japan benefited because women learned how to cook cheap, nutritious, mostly easy dishes to improve the health of their families and the nation. For American agricultural and political interests, on the other hand, in addition to supporting a Cold War ally, the kitchen cars—along with the school lunch program—were instrumental in teaching Japan to accept and consume American produce.

About Nathan Hopson

Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese history and language in the School of Foreign Languages, University of Bergen, Norway. He is currently completing a manuscript on the social history of nutrition science in modern Japan as a technology of nation building, focusing on school feeding and government-led nutritional activism as its central case studies. Recent articles on the history of food and nutrition in modern Japan include “‘Humans Bring Food to Their Mouths, Animals Bring Their Mouths to Food’: The Morality Politics of School-Lunch Sporks in 1970s Japan” (Food & Foodways 2023); “Ingrained Habits: The ‘Kitchen Cars’ and the Transformation of Postwar Japanese Diet and Identity” (Food, Culture & Society 2020); “Nutrition as National Defense: Japan’s Imperial Government Institute for Nutrition, 1920-1940” (Journal of Japanese Studies 2019); and “‘Fake Food: Authentic Japanese Product’—On the Rise of Visuality in Middlebrow Japanese Culinary Culture” (Japan Forum 2018).

Link to the lecture (Zoom)

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