American Ramen Researcher Becomes Associate Professor at Doshisha University1 April 2016 - Education/University
George Solt, author of "The Untold History of Ramen" which was translated into Japanese and published last year by Kokushokankokai Inc., and Associate Professor at New York University, USA, took up an associate-professorship at Doshisha University on April 1. The unique American ramen researcher has high expectations for his first experience of Kyoto life.
Born in Japan to an American father and a Japanese mother, Professor Solt lived in Tokyo until he was in fourth grade. He studied at Amherst College in United States, the alma mater of Joseph Neesima, founder of Doshisha University. Appointed to a post at the Center for Global Education newly established at Doshisha University this academic year, he has already moved to Kyoto City with his family.
In his book, Associate Professor Solt delineates the history of Japanese ramen from the Meiji Period. Using various documents, including American sources and others, he points out that, although food was scarce in 1940s due to the war, ramen gradually became a national dish when the United States actively exported wheat in order to alleviate public frustration over the food control system during the post-war occupation.
Stimulated by the expansion of the ramen restaurant "Hakata Ippudo" into New York, the United States has been experiencing an unprecedented ramen boom since 2000s, but he says the boom is a little different from that in Japan. A bowl of ramen is consumed in a restaurant with a luxurious interior as a "cool" fancy meal costing approximately 2,000 yen. With the extensive array of alcoholic beverages on the menu, some people enjoy very soft noodles along with wine. Solt said, "In the 1980s Japan was a threat for the United States for its startlingly rapid growth, but now that China has become the threat, Japanese culture is attracting a lot of interest."
He said finding a branch of "Tenkaippin," a ramen restaurant originating in Kyoto, in Hawaii was another reason that interested him in investigating the history of ramen spreading overseas within the context of politics and economics. "Ramen-so Yume Wo Katare" a ramen restaurant in Ichijoji, Sakyo Ward, which is widely known as a ramen battleground, also opened a branch in Boston and, he explained, "It has gained popularity among young Asian Americans."
He concluded his ramen research with this book for a while, and will devote himself to lectures on Japanese history that he will deliver in English at the Center for Global Education of Doshisha University. He said, "Once I get settled into life in Kyoto, I want to investigate Kyoto cuisine and 'B-grade gourmet' food like curry and so on." B-grade gourmet refers to ordinary, local cuisine that is often a variation on a national favorite dish.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)