Rebuilding the Japanese Food Pyramid 日本のフードピラミッドを建て直す

The other day at one of the middle schools where I work, a certain poster caught my eye. It advocated “balance” in your daily diet and featured a graphic that reminded me an awful lot of the USDA’s food pyramid:

This, I later learned, is the “spinning top” model for a healthy shokuseikatsu 食生活 (“food lifestyle”) published by a non-governmental organization called the Zaidan Houjin Shokuseikatsu Jouhou Saabisu Sentaa 財団法人食生活サービスセンター (the “Information Service Center for Food and Foodways”). The foundation draws its support from a long list of corporations, including Kikkoman, the Calpis Company, Kewpie Mayonnaise, and all four of the major beverage producers in Japan – Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, and Suntory. These guys are big. Real big. So I guess that explains why the glass of liquid forming the axis of the top is labeled as water and tea (not that Japanese people don’t drink plenty of tea as it is). It’s also interesting how far down dairy is. Sure, there’s not much of a history of dairy culture in Japan, but I wonder if it may also have something to do with the fact that out of the forty-some companies listed as cooperators in the foundation, only two are dairy producers: Meiji and Morinaga.

For comparison, here is the American food pyramid, both its classic form and the hopelessly ugly – but functionally improved – new edition:

Note how much more important dairy products are in the American models, especially in the new one. They’re given just about the same weight as vegetables, more than fruit, and almost as much as grains. Hmm. Do American nutritional scientists know something about milk that the Japanese don’t? Or did dairy lobbyists just work a little harder last year?

Anyway, I got to thinking: what would a food pyramid look like if sponsored by the Japanese government? Based on my dim knowledge of Japanese agricultural domestic policies and trade laws and on my own observations of Japanese food and foodways, I’ve drafted a modest proposal:

foodpyramid.jpg

Are you reading this, Abe?! You can thank me later!

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39 thoughts on “Rebuilding the Japanese Food Pyramid 日本のフードピラミッドを建て直す

  1. Vonnegurl says:

    Your food pyramid made me literally laugh out loud. How accurate.

    And have you seen how many hunchbacked old women there are here? It’s from osteoporosis. They needed to drink more milk. I suspect that a lack of calcium in their diets is part of why milk is mandatorily provided for every student, every day.

  2. Kara says:

    Researching for a paper on Japanese culture, with a focus on their diet… Found out lot of fascinating things since I started, but your pyramid is by far the most hilarious. Arigatou!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I live in Japan, and I found this to be absolutely hysterical in its’ truthfulness- especially in reference to the kitkat bars (I have found at least 4 off the wall flavors, one of them being adzuki bean) and the monstrous proportions of the fruit (which match their prices..).

  4. びっくり says:

    Awesome pyramid! I was looking for graphics for my post about the Food Top and stumbled upon yours. I think I laughed so hard I got a whalebone stuck in my nose, but once I ate a raspberry Kit Kat, everything was fine.

    I may have to stop writing my blog and just read yours.

  5. Jude says:

    Milk is actually very unhealthy because it causes mucus in the lungs. Plus most races are allergic to milk, so clearly milk isn’t completely need. Lactose in. people live normal lives, are just a s tall as normal people, and don’t have osteoporosis later in life. Things like soda, and milk leach calcuim from the bones, and you can get calcuim from veggies and fruits.

  6. Josh says:

    No, Vonnegurl, I don’t think that the hunched-over thing has anything to do with osteoporosis. Can you tell someone’s bone density by looking at them? In doing big surveys, scientists ask for number of fractures. It just seems like an ignorant (and equally cocky) comment, so I had to say something.

    And Jude, yea, I read in a book by Willett (of Harvard’s school of public health) that..
    “Hip fractures tend to be more common in countries with high average calcium intake” (p.163)
    “Only a quarter of the world’s adults can fully digest milk” (p.166)

    I liked this article; it taught me that just like in America, lobbyists run the pyramid.

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    Application of the suitable cleaning solution.
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