What is OBANZAI? A Study Report (3/4)
(2) The significance of eating Obanzai
Having Obanzai meals consists of consuming nutrients as well as participating in human activities, which help shape a character and strengthen the solidarity among people. Eating Obanzai, moreover, is not just consuming foods, but rather accentuates the importance of demeanors in dining. Obanzai, for instance, postulates that all family members sit together at the dining table and share the meal. Sharing dishes with family members would create communications, which can bring about educational values, cultural inheritance, socialization and pleasure, and strengthen the family tie.
Spiritualties attached to the eating of Obanzai seem to be shared commonly among many Japanese, rather than being a particular trait the people of Kyoto possess. As an agricultural people, and having been influenced by the Buddhist and Confucius spiritualties, the Japanese have tended to appreciate exceptionally harmony and morality in life. Yet, in Kyoto as the ancient capital of Japan such spiritualties still remain delicately alive.
It was not until half a century ago that most Japanese could enjoy the abundance of foods. Until then, the value of foods was so appreciated that Japanese people genuinely would say Itadakimasu (meaning that I humbly receive foods) and Gochisousama (meaning that I thank for preparing the meal).
○Aesthetics of the eating demeanor
Beautiful beautifully or elegantly (e.g., without leaving mess after the meal) with a good table manner indicates appreciation toward foods and people who prepared them, although that is not easy as skills and knowledge in handling foods are needed.
From preparation to cleaning and restoration of tableware, Obanzai entails a variety of roles that people involved in the meal are supposed to play in cooperation.
It can be argued that the four spiritual aspects discussed above would be found across Japanese households. Nonetheless, it is quite uncertain that such spiritualties still remain vigorously alive in Japanese family meals in general, and even in Obanzai.
(3) Structure of Obanzai
The process to prepare Obanzai consists of a series of events from menu making to table cleanup. At each act of processing, knowledge and skills are applied, and inherited and accumulated over generations. Accordingly, although there have been alterations in changing environments, the process of Obanzai preparation has been inherited as a unique cuisine culture. Obanzai has created the unique spirituality alive in Kyoto, which has maintained the consistent distinctiveness of Japanese historic cuisines.
In the meantime, the significance of eating Obanzai centers on the sharing of meals. Having a meal together makes family relationship stronger and helps one be independent.
Thus, Obanzai could be understood as having the two facets, that is, the preparation and the eating, and discussing the two together could complicate the analysis. Probably it is appropriate to separate Obanzai conceptually and call its making “Obanzai” while the concept involving the two facets (the preparation and the eating) could be called “Obanzai ryouri” (Obanzai dishes or meals). Conceptualizing the Obanzai this way allows us to better understand the process through which Obanzai has been inherited.