This paper explores the representation of masculinity in Japanese television cooking shows. It does this for a number of reasons: first, because television is the most consumed medium in Japan today, present in every household and viewed, on average, 3.5 hours a day; second, because food is present on nearly every channel, in some form, on and in between virtually every program, all day, every day; third, because gender representations, especially masculinity, are a major component of these communications; fourth, because the version of masculinity that is communicated is a very narrowly constructed, univocal type. Following Ito (1996)26.
Ito , K. 1996. Danseigaku Nyumon, (Introduction to Men's Studies) Tokyo: Sakuhinsha. View all references, this type is shown to be “masculine hegemony,” a construct with three essential elements: authority, power, and possession. Working through an array of on-screen data, I show that, regardless of the “kind” of male present in food shows, men invariably embody one or all of these masculine characteristics. Importantly, women also reinforce these qualities, either by facilitating manifestation or adopting these traits themselves. Few, if any, deviations from these depictions can be located, and when they are, they can be explained in terms of the corporate structure of television in contemporary Japan. A key observation is that, despite the prevalence of hegemonic masculinity, it is not played out through the iconic Japanese male, the salaried worker. In fact, in contrast with the pervading socio-economic reality in the “real world,” this male archetype is wholly absent inside the food-show screen.