"The Magic of Japanese Rice Cakes"

Devouring Japan Speaker Series - A talk by Dr. Eric Rath

Wed, October 9, 2013 | Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Rice cakes nourish, but they can also work magic.  After taking a close look at the composition of rice cakes and how they are made, Dr. Rath’s talk surveys the many varieties of rice cakes and the magical properties that have been ascribed to them since ancient times.  Then, to demonstrate that rice cakes reveal their magic not just in their supernatural powers, but also as one of the earliest and most popular processed food commodities sold in Japan, he traces the importance of rice cakes to the development of the confectionery trade from the sixteenth century.  The talk concludes with some reflection about the perceived centrality of rice cakes to modern ideas about Japanese civilization.



Dr. Eric Rath is a Professor in the Deparment of History at University of Kansas. 

Dr. Rath's research examines the relationship between authority, technology, and aesthetics in early modern (1600-1868) culture. His recent research on the history of Japanese cuisine appears in two books. Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2010) examines medieval culinary rituals and early modern cookbooks to reveal the importance of the intangible and inedible to the formation of Japanese cuisine.  Japanese Foodways Past and Present(University of Illinois Press, 2010), which he coedited with Stephanie Assmann, includes fourteen chapters covering six centuries of Japan’s food culture with topics ranging from children’s lunches, ramen, dining out in World War II, and wine drinking.

Besides teaching courses on foodways and Japanese history, Dr. Rath offers classes on Tibetan history; and he was the principal investigator for a US State Department project to develop a curriculum for a school for Tibetans in rural Qinghai, China.  

Sponsored by: CEAS

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