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Snacking and Japanese family meal patterns


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#1 SobaAddict70

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 12:47 PM

Reading about Kristin's and Jin's family experiences, especially Kristin's dinners made me wonder if meal patterns, in particular snacking, are significantly different in Japan.

Are children and teenagers inundated with food advertisements or media that caters to them and their tastes, to the extent that they are in the U.S.?

Describe how your family eats in a typical day (assuming you live in Japan). Inquiring minds want to know!

Soba

#2 torakris

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 04:26 PM

I am not quite sure exactly what info you are looking for so ask again if I get it wrong or you wan to know more.

Snacking is huge in Japan and recently very little of it seems to be on the healthy side, or fourse it also depends on where (whose house you are in) you are, your age and the age of the people with you. For example my MIL tends to snack on sembei (rice crackers) or Japanese sweets (usually rice and red bean combos) when alone or with her friends but if I take the kids over she pulls out the kid snacks, packaged chips cookies etc.

In your own home (especially with kids) there are usually snacks everyday at 10am and 3pm, the afternoon one being almost never missed. This is the sanji oyatsu (sanji = 3 o'clock, oyatsu =snack).

Depending on the household though snacking can go on all day long right up until dinner time.
As a visitor to someone else's house you should bring some type of snack with you (even children going by themselves to a friend's house afterschool should take a snack to be shared) When you visit a house they will usually set in front of you a large basket/bowl of a variet of snacks and sometimes the bowl in constantly being replenished.


Want to write more but I have to go pick up a friend's child that I am watching today, will be back in about 40 minutes :biggrin:

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#3 torakris

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 05:47 PM

Wow reading back over the last thing I wrote, you can tell I was pressed for time and ahd no organization to my thoughts.
Let's try again

Snacking is huge in Japan and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a bigger variety here then in the US.
Any Jaapnese household I walk into has a large basket or cupboard dedicated just to snacks and has anywhere from 5 to 10 varieties at anytime. The snacks in a household will vary depending on the age of the people living there.
Those with elderly people will have a higher percentage of fruits and sembei (rice crackers as well as the traditional Jaapnese sweets.
Those with small children underschool age will will tend to have things like fruit, yogurt, and sembei
Those with chidren of a young school age will have a house inundated with any type of junk food, chips, cookies, etc.
Those with older children tend to have those kind of snacks as well as, mini-meal kind of foods, instant ramen, instant yaki-soba, steamed filled buns, etc

Housewives getting together to chat normally snack on cakes, fancier cookies, or specialties from a local bakery.

I buy almost no snacks (and my kids complain constantly about this!), instead giving my children fruits, yogurt, or home made snacks.


Fruits are seem to be bought for family consumption (the expensive ones, which is most of them!), though mikan (mandarin type oranges), Asian pears, apples are often set out for guests, the latter 2 being first peeled and cut.


In my house
My son and I might have a snack around 10am, but nothing regular.
sanji oyatsu (3 o'clock snack) happens everyday if it is just myself and the kids we usually have fruits, yogurt, or homemade something. I don't allow my kids to eat a snack any later then 4:30 (we eat dinner around 6:30) though it is unenforacble when they are at someone else's house.
dessert after dinner is not an everyday occurance but we do have it more often then not.

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#4 torakris

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 06:08 PM

Thinking about it some more I realized I missed a whole category of snacking and that is the kind of snacking that goes on in either restaurants or food stalls by people with co-workers or friends after work.
This are rarely considered a meal becasue there is usually no rice eaten, they are just otsumami (usually snacks eaten with alcohol) similar to tapas.

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#5 SobaAddict70

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 08:04 PM

Let me clarify:

1. I'm actually interested in family meal patterns -- how people eat during the course of the day, whether mealtimes are regular or varied, etc. Japan is one of those countries that seems to defy expectations about modernity. I mean, the nuclear family is probably one of the oldest and most stable institutions, even now in the 21st century, and while many countries seem to have this institution intact, I'm asking this question on this board because I'm particularly fascinated with Japanese food.

2. As to the other part of my question, I'm interested in hearing about whether snacking is patterned after the US (which btw must be the world leader when it comes to snacks of all sorts, but with a penchant for unhealthy snacks), and if so, how it applies to children and teenagers.

thx,

Soba

#6 nerissa

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 08:27 PM

2.  As to the other part of my question, I'm interested in hearing about whether snacking is patterned after the US (which btw must be the world leader when it comes to snacks of all sorts, but with a penchant for unhealthy snacks), and if so, how it applies to children and teenagers.

I find this to be a really interesting thread. Soba, What is your conception of U.S. snacking patterns? I understand it as irrational, patternless--as people just pick up a bag of chips or cookies at the quickie mart and down them without thinking about whether or not they are hungry.

What tokakris describes seems more healthy--if you define mealtimes, you tend to think about what you have eaten earlier and what you will be eating at that prescribed time.

#7 margaret

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 08:06 AM

I'm not sure if this is what you're asking, but...

Although I don't currently live in Japan, I spent time there and I work at a Japanese company now, and from my experiences, I would say that just like the U.S., it really depends on the family. It does, however, seem to be pretty common practice for men to stay out after work drinking and eating with co-workers at izakaya or grab a bite at a ramen shop or something while women eat at home with children. In a lot of families I know, the wife will leave rice in the rice cooker and leftovers from that evening's meal for the husband to eat when he gets home. This isn't every night, of course, but work in Japan tends to run late in general, or at least from what I've seen, and social life is very centered around the office. Where I work, for example, probably about 80% of the people order takeout for dinner and stay on doing work until well past nine, ten at night.
Breakfast and lunch are also probably comparable to the U.S. - there are people who eat regularly at certain times and others who don't. Families with children probably tend to eat breakfast together more often, before everyone leaves for school/work.

I'm not sure exactly how to answer the question about snacking, but the snack industry in general, as torakris said, is huge in Japan. Lots of seasonal and regional flavors (which helps to power the omiyage or souvenir industry) and gimmicky products (toys inside boxes of chocolates, candies shaped like hamburgers, character-driven items etc) Chips, chocolate, cakes, gummies, etc, are all very big, as are more traditional Japanese snacks like senbei. I'd say many people tend to graze like Americans do, all day long, on whatever is around. Seriously, though, the flavors that come out in Japan are incredible, almost similar to British crisps in a way - beef curry flavored chips, yakisoba flavored crackers, etc. I get sucked in by the novelty way too often.

#8 Akiko

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 08:26 AM

Don't you think that Japan as a nation in general is more fixated with food than western culture?

When I lived in Japan... I don't think I ever stopped eating, besides the meals themselves, colleagues were constantly passing my desk offerring me snacks, chocolate, candy, pocky, osembei, people constantly bring you tea and offer some small something to eat with it. Or you are meeting friends for tea or coffee or beer and snacks. I just ate, constantly with no breaks! And the amazing thing? I was a good 15-20 pounds lighter when I lived there... how is that possible? I think I need to move back to Japan!

#9 margaret

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 08:35 AM

I agree. Food is a constant topic of conversation - what restaurants you've eaten at recently, what's for dinner, who cooked what, etc. If someone goes on a trip, it's pretty much a given that they're going to bring back food to share. Here in my office, there is always food around - someone is always bringing in cake or senbei or wagashi or something - and people just kind of pick all day.
I hear you on the weight loss, though - thinking back, why?? I pretty much ate constantly. I guess portion sizes are different?

Now that I think about it, one thing that's different about meals in Japan is the tendency for them to drag on. I think in the U.S., often times people go out to eat and then go out drinking afterwards - maybe wine with dinner or something, but the meal itself is pretty structured. In Japan drinking and eating pretty much take place simultaneously, and people often spend hours in the same izakaya or restaurant just ordering small otsumami (small shared tapas-style dishes) and drinking without ever eating what you could call a main dish.
One izakaya here in my neighborhood in New York is actually called Snacky, if that tells you anything.

#10 torakris

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 03:31 PM

The Japanese do think about food a lot more than other countries I know.
There is no need for the Food network here in Japan because there are cooking shows/ shows about food/ shows about restaurants all day long on various channels. The Japanese just love food.

As Margaret said it all depends on the family. I know a mother who gives her 2 sons snacks consatntly through the day, a bag of potato chips followed by a plate of sausages, followed by ice cream, followed by potato croquettes, etc. I went out to lunch with her once and she ordered a pasta dish for herself and sons to share. Jaapnese portions are quite small and her sons are 5 and 9 and the 3 of them still managed to leave some pasta on the dish! They graze all day long they don't know how to eat regular meals.

Though snacks in Japan used to be quite healthy, rice crackers, seaweeds with sweet-sour coating, pickled plums, dried fish, some nuts etc, it has now become more common to see western style snacks, chips, sweetened breads, cakes, cookies, etc.

Unfortunately because of the hours most men work, a lot of children only see their fathers on the weekends (if the fathers aren't sleeping) and I know a lot of of mothers who rather then dealing with the stresses of being a single mother during the week try to avoid the stress by giving in to their children's demands whether it be for snacks, toys, clothes, etc.
I have one the the extremely rare Japanese husbands who is actually home everyday before 7:00pm. :biggrin:

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