A special gastronomic seminar titled “Intercultural Communication through Food” was held on March 11 at Ritsumeikan University Suzaku Campus with the lecturer, Ms. Maria Yotova from Bulgaria, a visiting researcher at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.

Her Encounter with Bulgarian Yogurt in Japan

In Japan, Bulgaria is really famous as the homeland of yogurt, since a yogurt named “Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt” is produced and widely sold by Meiji Holdings Co., Ltd. Her talk, of course, started with Bulgarian yogurt.
For Bulgarian people, yogurt is one of the common daily products and she also ate it every day when she was living in Bulgaria. However, she did not expect that Bulgarian yogurt was such a famous product in Japan, a place distant from Eastern Europe.

Food, as a Tool for Intercultural Communication

Her talk then transferred to the seminar’s main topic, “Intercultural Communication through Food.”

Everyone may agree with that food is a great communication tool with other people.
In Japan, “drink party” (‘Nomikai’ in Japanese) is known as one of the communication tools at workplaces. Even if you meet someone you don’t know really well at a party, you could find a common theme such as food and have a good conversation with that person. And this is true not only between nations but also between your area and other area in your own country.
Sharing your national cuisine with people from other countries contributes to share your national culture as well as the intercultural communication through food leads to enrich your relationship with other people, beyond the national borders.

She introduced a word “Ethnocentrism” in the seminar. Ethnocentrism is combination of “ethnic” and “centrism,” therefore, it is the idea that your own group or culture is better or more important than others. She talked to the audience that everyone is proud of its eating habits and food, but that is not a good excuse for denying those of others. Whether we could overcome our bias to the eating habits of other people may influence the future of mankind…?

The principle of intercultural communication is “Accept and Respect,” that is what Japanese people embody by adopting foreign taste and food into Japanese food culture, according to her.

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