Summer School of Japan Association for the Contemporary and Applied Philosophy (hereafter JACAP) “Linking Foodscapes: Three Days to Explore Food and Agriculture” was held at RIHN from September 15th to 17th, 2019.
This is the annual event of JACAP which has covered a wide range of topics such as fashion, mathematics, environmental pollution problems, space exploration, business ethics among many others. Prof. Nobutsugu Kanzaki of Nanzan University and I organized this year’s summer school with the theme of “Food and Agriculture”.
“Foodscapes” as in the event title refers to a place and/or space where we can find a meaning in the act of eating and food itself through purchasing food, cooking food and talking about food. It includes, for example, supermarket, kitchen, food court, convenience store, farmer’s market or farm stand, farm, garden, classroom, internet, and even imaginary cooking and future food.
This year’s event was co-organized by the FEAST Project, JACAP and Kyoto Farmer’s Market. The main objectives of this event were:
(1) To learn about various topics of the talks given by the lecturers, and foodscapes through photos and video clips that they presented;
(2) To organize and integrate diverse food systems into a panoramic foodscape through discussion with the participants;
(3) To record and analyze the process of linking and integrating diverse foodscapes to illuminate what it reveals and see if new questions are raised.
A total of 40 people joined the event including lecturers from a wide array of fields such as sociology, geography, ecology, modern art as well as decluttering and organizing, and audience such as researchers of philosophy and ethics, those who are working in relation to food. The diversity of the participants made three-day long discussion exceptionally exciting! I also believe that one of the fruitful products of this event was to provide an opportunity and a platform for the participants to relax and talk – those who wouldn’t have got together and exchanged opinions otherwise.
The timetable is as follows:
Following each session, round table discussions were carried out: starting with Q&A with the lecturers, visualizing foodscapes that they were able to see through the lectures with illustration and description, and finally presenting the foodscapes, linking them with others’ and sorting out the order.
The preceding studies have shown that illustrating and talking about foodscapes function as a starting point to link drawings or photos about food, personal preferences and social, political and historical issues and discuss about them. Furthermore, it has been indicated that the discussion on foodscapes enable us to delve into the relations at various levels in our food systems that we are unable to grasp when making choices about food in daily life, including laws and regulations, logistics, culture, purchasing habits etc.
And, we wouldn’t want to miss this chance to record the outputs from the participants with the various backgrounds in the most efficient manner, so graphic recording was carried out for the entire three days.
<Day 1 – AM> After my brief introduction, Steven McGreevy, the FEAST Project Leader, gave a talk titled “Exploring Food Policy Council through Sustainability Transition”. Then, a round table discussion on Kyoto Farmer’s Market with the volunteered speakers was held with the fishbowl method. Some of the topics discussed were: Why should we talk about foodscapes? Why has urban food policy or foodscapes in other words been gaining the momentum around the world since the beginning of the 21st Century? How does a farmer’s market evolve from a place to simply sell and buy agricultural produce to a platform to organize workshops and to communicate and interact in a much broader sense? Then, the participants were asked to weave what they learned and thought into foodscapes, visualizing with drawing and description, and finally to link with the foodscapes developed by other participants with an easy-to-follow storyline.
<Day One – PM> Three talks were given in the afternoon: “Revisiting Agriculture in the Post-war Japan through ‘Empowerment’” by Dr. Fumi Iwashima, Doshisha University, “Encountering New Food Problems: Cultured Meat, Entomophagy and 3D Printer” by Prof. Shinichi Ishikawa, Miyagi University, and “Exploring Urban Farmland from the Perspective of a Shrinking Society” by Christoph Rupprecht and Kimisato Oda, the FEAST Project. These talks covered a constellation of activities of rural women, which tend to be lumped together under the conceptual framework of “empowerment”, new forms of food made possible by pioneering technology and the related ethical challenges, and the current Japan’s situation of urban farmland decrease in the midst depopulation. Many of the participants seemed to be struck by the Sci-Fi like technologies. Another round of discussion to draw and link foodscapes was carried out, which was then followed with a dinner at the RIHN guesthouse to wrap up the first day and continue to exchange opinions and ideas.
<Day Two – AM> The second day of the summer school started with a brief review of the first day, which was followed by my talk “Looking at Soil through the History of Food and Enterobacteria”, “Sustainable City through the Lens of Bees” by Rika Shinkai, the FEAST Project, and “Art and Cosmology of Food” by Prof. Fumihiko Sumitomo, Arts Maebashi. The first two talks focused on soil resources and honeybees as a pollinator, both of which are ecologically indispensable to support a sustainable society, but largely neglected and not included in the curriculum guidelines of compulsory education. Then, Prof. Sumitomo gave a thorough explanation about the exhibition “Foodscapes: We are What We Eat” organized by Arts Maebashi in 2016, which had inspired this year’s summer school. Listening to their talks and giving a talk myself once again reminded me of the primary objective of this event – “to broaden and strengthen our capacity to imagine foodscapes that are missing or hidden from the table”. The foodscapes that were developed and presented by the participants appear to be a testimonial evidence that the objective was achieved.
<Day Two – PM> Resuming after the lunch break, the lectures given were “Decluttering and Organization and Food Loss” by Ms. Yuka Fujiada of Moderato Style, “Introducing Bhutan through the Lenses of Change in Food Habits and Food Production” by Mai Kobayashi, the FEAST Project, and “Japanese Sake and Glocalization” by Mr. Takashi Eguchi of Umionia. They had had experiences on the ground, which made it possible to provide topics full of surprises: Can we decrease food loss by decluttering? How are vegetarianism and meat eating culture in Bhutan? How are Japanese sake produced in Brazil and Mexico? These topics were a strong reminder that eating takes place across and links the world. We racked our brains to incorporate this into the story of foodscapes, the intense process of which made us a bit dizzy, and we were off to dinner.
<Day Three – AM> Last day was mainly dedicated to a final roundup. The goal was for each participant to re-organize and re-order twelve lectures into a course of lectures in a way that mirrors their own interests. 19 programs were developed which thoroughly displayed their originality. I personally would like to take every one of these courses… To wrap up the event, Prof. Kanzaki gave a talk titled “Towards Good Transdisciplinary Process” and we had the final roundtable discussion on how we should continue to carry out the transdisciplinary practices such as this event. It might not be exactly the same with “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk”, but this event reminded me again that a philosophical approach could serve as a tool to keep a reasonable distance when looking back the experiences in the past.
Various problems that the current food systems bear, such as environmental burdens, polarization, starvation/famine, exploitation etc. are profound. Needless to say, it is almost impossible to come up with one and only desirable food system when our food systems are extremely complicated and woven into an enormous system, and stakeholders come with diverse backgrounds and values. Its complexity overwhelms us. Then, how can we make use of foodscapes to trace the link between the food we eat and food systems which produce and distribute food without neglecting its complexity and being overwhelmed. This event can be considered as a trial to see how that works. I will analyze the survey that the participants filled in on the last day to report whether the trial was a success or not.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who joined the event. And, last but not certainly least, I also would like to thank all the lecturers, Dr. Hirotsugu Oba of Kyoto University, Ms. Atsuko Isaki, Ms. Mayumi Nasu, Ms. Manaka Yoshihara and everyone of Kyoto Farmer’s Market, and Ms. Aya Taniguchi, a graphic recording artist for all the supports and dedication for this event. And, Of course, I shall never forget to thank Nijiiro Gohan, Demachi Usagi, Wappado, and Kazenone for delicious food to energize the participants!
(The original post was written in Japanese. Translated by Yuko K.)