Rice, Men, and Other Everyday Anxieties

Navigating Obesogenic Urban Food Environments in Osaka, Japan

Authored by: Cindi SturtzSreetharan , Alexandra Brewis

Handbook of Global Urban Health

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138206250
eBook ISBN: 9781315465456
Adobe ISBN:


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Urban food and exercise environments are increasingly described as “obesogenic,” characterized by vast amounts of low-cost, low-nutrient dietary options and encouraging sedentary lifestyles. Japanese food environments have long been considered among the “healthiest,” but this perception is jarringly out of step with the intensity of modern Japanese food environments in core urban areas. This ethnographic analysis, based on extended interviews and participant observation in central Osaka, Japan, identifies how food environments, health, and growing anxieties about modern urban life intersect. There are four central themes that emerge from Osakan stories of the concerns and challenges in navigating urban eating: the challenge of decreasing dietary diversity; the challenge of overwhelming starch (especially rice); that men are most at risk; and that women are those who buffer risk. In an obesogenic context that is perhaps better described as an urban “food jungle” than a “food swamp,” the way people understand the risks of and protections against the unhealthy urban foodscape is highly gendered.

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