SOAS University of London

Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies

The Man and the Rice: gender identity and the city in Solitary Gourmet

Speaker: Irene Gonzalez

A man travels alone across towns and neighbourhoods tasting dishes in local restaurants. Such is the simple narrative of Solitary Gourmet (Kodoku no gurume, Kusumi Masayuki and Taniguchi Jirō, 1994), a manga series successfully adapted into a Japanese television drama in 2012 and later into a Chinese web series. Detailed depictions of the food, the venues, their staff and customers are accompanied by the inner-voice comments of Inogashira Gorō, a sales agent. Beyond gastronomy, Inogashira´s experiences in modest restaurants provide an audacious portrait of contemporary Japan. They compose a collage of people, spaces and life styles that invites us to rethink cultural constructions of gender, occupation, age, social class and region.

Analysing the TV series, first this paper investigates how identities are represented combining these social parameters. Underneath seeming stereotypes, in some cases Solitary Gourmet rejects fixed boundaries and offers eclectic revisions of these identities that may appeal to contemporary audiences. Inogashira stands as a representative of the salaryman, and yet he is not a salaried office worker, he is single and has lived several years abroad; thus departing from the orthodox profile of a salaryman while retaining other characteristic features of the archetype. Second, focusing on Inogashira, this paper argues that Solitary Gourmet constructs a Japanese white-collar masculine identity defined by a non-domestic space and a taste for an ‘authentic’ Japanese gastronomy, which functions as an interface for cultural identity. In this way, Solitary Gourmet emerges as a compelling site of nostalgia and the collective search for the Japanese essence.