SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.16 (2020)

Anthropological Research on the Food Practices
of Chinese Immigrant Women:

A Case Study of the Dietary Habits of Families of Chinese Wives
and Japanese Husbands in Hiroshima

XIE Chunyou

Department of Regional Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

daily eating habits, dietary composition, ethnicity, significance of food, Chinese wife, Japanese husband, Hiroshima

This paper focuses on the food practices of Chinese women in Japan, married to Japanese men. The purposes of this paper are to use an anthropological approach to clarify the actual condition of their daily eating habits, in particular the dietary composition, and discuss the significance of foods for immigrants who live in a host society.

Studies of food as a symbol of ethnic identity and discussions of the changes in the dietary habits of immigrants have increased with the increase of immigration and settlement immigrants. Krishnendu Ray pointed out that Bengalis in the United States differentiate themselves by food practices from Bengalis in Bengal, non-Bengali Indians in the United States, and Americans (Ray 2004: 78). Jacqueline M. Newman argued that the food habits of Chinese immigrants in the United States who live in Queens (a mixed ethnic community in New York) changed their dietary habits more significantly than those who live in Chinatown (Newman 1980). However, it is not always possible to clearly show the ethnic identity of immigrants through food. Newman’s study is limited to the Chinese women whose husbands and both of their parents are likely of Chinese origin. The dietary habits of couples from different nationalities, customs, systems and societies, however, have not been sufficiently investigated.

This paper describes the dietary composition of Chinese immigrant women who married Japanese men and are raising children in Hiroshima. Hiroshima, the city where the field was conducted, does not have a large-scale Chinatown.

Three Chinese immigrant women in nuclear families were surveyed. They are 1) full-time housewife ‘P’; 2) part-time worker ‘E’; and 3) full-time worker ‘S’. Different eating habits were established in each family for breakfast, lunch, and dinner depending on their employment status and the food preferences of their husbands. It was found out that daily eating habits of a Chinese wife and Japanese husband combine various kinds of food and that the dietary habits are formed under the influence of personal relationships with friends and family members.

This paper revealed that food has significance in creating an imagined communities not only among Chinese immigrants in Japan, but also between Chinese in China and those abroad; serves as a tool to familiarize themselves with the host society; develops a network in the host society; and reflects the lifestyles of the Chinese immigrant women who seek to integrate multicultural elements into the host society.