Food tourism is more than just eating food but can become a source of intercultural encounter, a model of experience economy and cultural capital economy, and also a form of status and prestige.
At first, I have no idea what to do for this project, especially when I was asked to decide what is the most interesting thing I would like to explore here in Kumamoto. Praise to the advancement of technology, I finally managed to find interesting topic by looking through the internet. Recommendation from internet sparked my interest and I decided to get to know the most famous dish in Kumamoto. Kumamoto is famous for horse meat. Since Japan is also famous for its sliced meat raw cuisine called Sashimi, horse meat also have its version of sashimi called basashi. Since then, I decided to choose basashi as my topic.
I have limited knowledge about Japanese language that was one of my difficulties to gain information directly from local people. I finally got help from my friends, Tsuji Nozomi and Adachi Yu. They agreed to accompany me to come to the restaurant. After discussing about the place, we finally decided to go to Uma Sakura (馬桜) in Shimotori. We chose the place because it has a good reputation and review from internet. At 25th of November, we finally met and came to the restaurant.
Picture: Information in front of the restaurant
Before getting into the restaurant, I read some information. Usually the information is related to the restaurant’s menu and price. Here I can also find welcome message with four different languages. It was written in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and English. This information perhaps just nothing more than message for some people, but for me it means that people from another country have come or expected to come to this restaurant.
Picture: Table setting in the restaurant
The interior inside the restaurant is influenced by modern design. It echoes elegance and luxury. People usually come in groups, for example friends, and family. When I came over there, I saw two tables were already occupied. One table had more people and looked like they were co-workers while the other table belonged to a couple. The atmosphere felt relaxing and was really comfortable. At that time, I did not see other people from the other country came.
Picture: Menu from the restaurant
After we sat, the waitress came and gave us the menu to choose. Because the waitress couldn’t speak English well, I was worried I might not be able to order. They apparently has English menu but I was lucky because I brought along my friends, so we can just order by using the Japanese menu. They helped a lot when I wanted to ask something. Nozomi asked the waitress if I could take picture of the menu. The waitress also explained that their customers mostly came from Korea and another Asia country.
Picture: Menu from the restaurant explaining which part of horse is available in the dishes.
We finally ordered four different dishes with different way of serving and part of the horse. First dish, we chose a set of horse meat from different part of the horse that can be eaten raw or cooked using the grill in the table. Second dish, we chose basashi served with avocado and unions. Third dish, we ordered Miso Nikomi which was a mixed of horse intestines and another inside part of the horse. The last dish, we ordered pizza with sausages made from horse meat.
Picture: Four horse meat dishes we chose in the restaurant.
The thought of finally eating raw horse meat had me surprised at my self. It is already uncommon from my origin country, Indonesia, to eat something raw let alone eating raw horse meat. But I got to try it here, in Kumamoto, as it is a famous dish in here (aside of being the object of my research).
The taste is definitely delicious. My favorite one is basashi served with avocado and unions. It was tender and made me feel fresher after eating it. I was expecting the strong smell of raw meat but surprisingly the horse meat did not have strong smell like other meat. I personally avoid lamb or goat meat to eat because of their strong smell and strong effect after eating those meats like headache or strong warmth that will make you can’t sleep. I was kind of expecting those effects in the horse meat but I was happy when I found it extremely healthy and delicious. What a superb combination.
My Friends Opinion
After eating horse meat for the first time as a tourist and as a student doing small research about it, I was wondering if my friends from the same country felt the same or even have different experience of it. I interviewed three of my friends to get more insights about eating horse meat.
The first one is Mia. She once went together with her Japanese friends to eat and celebrate one of their friends’ birthday. They ordered sashimi and basashi. At first, she was hesitate to eat basashi because she expected it to be tough and chewy and someone who had eaten basashi before told her that it was not that good. At the same time, she also wanted to try it so bad because some of her friends who had been in Kumamoto or had the chance to come to Kumamoto recommended her to try basashi.
Unable to hold her curiosity any longer, she finally tried basashi. She was really glad she did it because she liked the taste and the texture of the meat. Contrary to what she had believed before, the meat she ate was actually tender and fresh. “I was worried if I couldn’t eat it, this is the most famous dish in Kumamoto we are talking about. I feel like I missed something if I had been here without eating basashi,” she added.
The second one is Anggita. She also got recommendation from her friends a lot about horse meat in Kumamoto. Different from the rest of us, Gita had tried eating horse meat satay before in Indonesia. She would like to compare the taste and experience she had with horse meat. She went with her tutor to the same place as me in Uma Sakura. She said the meat did taste different. Horse meat satay in Indonesia was tough and a little bit chewy while it was tender here. “I think it was because of the way they treated the horse. Perhaps in Indonesia they just use old horse or the used for transportation one while in here they have big horse farm. I looked it up from the internet,” she stated.
The last one is Georgius. He joined Kumamoto University Summer program before. He said, he tried half-cooked horse meat in the hotel where they stayed during the program. He had a bit of bad impression about horse meat because of it and avoided eating another bit of horse meat when he joined in Unesco Cultural Heritage Program Held around October. Now, after he listened to our opinions about horse meat and basashi he would like to eat the meat again. “I think I would like to try again before leaving here. Perhaps I can erase my bad impression I had before and try the meat in the place you recommended to me. It will not be a good thing to disregard the culture here just based on that one impression I had,” he said.
Horse Meat in the Form of Tourism and Intercultural Encounter
Technology and transportation advancement have big contribution to tourism and travel. It is now possible for large numbers of people to travel and experiencing things that spark their interest in some aspect of the cultural difference they encounter with local people. The interesting part of this is how locals react to being on display, and how far their presentations may be considered to be authentic (Hendry, 2008).
Boniface (in Ahn Vu, 2013) explained the factors of food tourism. These factors are summarised as follows:
- Urbanisation is a cause for human’s separation with agricultural and rural culture from which food is rooted. (farm visit, fruit picking, vineyard, etc.)
- Agriculture industry is changing towards tourism alternatives. (food tourism as a subset of rural tourism).
- Individual responses toward globalisation and localisation.
- Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable in consuming food and drinks.
- Consumers find curiosity in cultural differences and exchanges
- Consumers consume food and drinks as a form of cultural consumption to enhance individual identity.
These factors help us to come to an understanding that since technology has developed, we can easily gain knowledge regarding the local places just by looking through the internet. Just like what I did when I was looking for interesting topic and when we wanted to decide the place we would like to visit. We become more knowledgeable thus driving us to be more aware and grow our interest about several things.
In this case, horse meat consumption culture in Kumamoto has developed more leaning toward display type and for local people economic development. From my experience, the consumption of horse meat is no longer just for its taste but more likely to buy the experience and the term of being “proper tourist”. At the same time, the local people providing the food shifted their focus not just as the provider of the food but also provide things that enhance the experience of tourist that will give them more profit or economy oriented.
It is understanable for tourist if the horse meat has high price because of their rareness and unique experience they will gain. This habit shows how food tourism developed more as an “experience‟ under a concept of “experience economy” by Pine and Gilmore (in Ahn Vu, 2013). As the world is moving toward an era of the “experience economy” in which what is offered is experience.
This phenomenon can also be explained by the cultural capital theory. Tourists who possess the cultural capital to appreciate and enjoy foreign food at home are the ones who are more likely to experience the local food at the destination. Since eating out is a necessary element of the vacation experience, and almost all tourists eat out, destinations become a playground for accruing as well as deploying one’s cultural capital (Shenoy, 2005). Finally, the tourist can also motivated by local a status and prestige. As tourists can build their knowledge of the local cuisine by eating as the local do and exploring new cuisines and food that they or their friends are not likely to encounter at home (Mak, etc, 2011).
From this research, I finally got to be more aware about my identity as a tourist and explore more things about food tourism. This helped me understand the motives and reasons people try different things as a tourist. Food tourism is more than just eating food but can become a source of intercultural encounter, a model of experience economy and cultural capital economy, and also a form of status and prestige. It allowed me to reflect on my experience and my friends’ and developed a new way of understanding about this phenomenon.
#This is a report for Introduction to Global Culture and Society class by Mr. Joshua Rickard. He asked us to conduct a small ethnography research to unveil interesting information about Japan especially in Kumamoto. I will share more exciting topics in this class later.
Ahn Vu, Ngoc. 2013. Promotion of Food Tourism on Websites of Tourist Offices: Cross-content Analyses of Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Lyon. https://theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/64631/Anh_Vu_Ngoc_TOBBA11.pdf?sequence=1
Hendry, Joy. 2008. Sharing Our Worlds: An Introduction to Cultural and Social Anthropology 2nd Edition. New York: New York University Press.
Lee, Anne H.J. 2012. The Creative Food Economy and Culinary Tourism through Place Branding: ‘TERROIR’ into a Creative and Environmentally Friendly Taste of a Place.
Mak, Athena H.N, etc. 2011. Factors Influencing Tourist Food Consumption. http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/202016/4/Factors%20influencinf.pdf.
Okech, Roselyne N. 2014. Developing Culinary Tourism: The Role of Food as a Cultural Heritage in Kenya.
Shenoy, Shajna S. 2005. Food Tourism and The Culinary Tourist. https://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/tourism/documents/Shenoy2005.pdf