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SUSHI SCIENCE AND HAMBURGER SCIENCE TATSUO MOTOKAWA* I am a biologist, visiting the United States from Japan. My stay in a North Carolina town has been full of surprises. What struck me most is the difference in the behavior of the people. The way they talk, the way they think, the way they laugh, the way they express their anger—all are different from those I have been used to. The daily experiences and observations of these differences have led me to notice that there exist some differences even in science and the way it is done. I had always regarded science as universal and believed there are no differences in science at all between countries. But I was wrong. People with different cultures think in different ways, and therefore their science also may well be different. In this essay, I will describe differences I have observed between Western science and Eastern science. Let me start with a parable. A man visited the United States from Japan. The first trouble he had was with foods. He found all the dishes served at restaurants too spicy, too hot, too salty, or too sweet. He was horrified to see someone cover a steak with salt like piles of snow. The man was a fish eater, as most Japanese are. He tried several seafoods. Most of them were deep, deepfried denatured protein once called fish; a blackened red fish: it was nothing but charcoal. The conclusion he drew was that the cuisine of the West is overcooked (see fig. 1). Of course there are good dishes in the West. He loved the fancy French cuisine, for example. Someone claimed that French chefs can make a good dish out of the soles of shoes! They really have an art of cooking. Japanese dishes seem to have no art of cooking at all. Sashimi and sushi are raw fish. "What savage people they are to eat raw fish!" would be a common impression, if one does not This essay was prepared while the author was staying in the laboratory of Professor Steven A. Wainwright at Duke University. Professor Motokawa thanks Professor Wainwright for his encouragement and reading of the manuscript, the Cocos Foundation for financial support during the stay, and Lisa Orton for discussion and reading of the manuscript . ?Department ofBiology, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa, 903-01 Japan.© 1989 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 003 1-5982/89/3204-0641$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 32, 4 ¦ Summer 1989 \ 489 know what sushi is like. Although sashimi and sushi use uncooked fish meat, they are one of the most difficult dishes to prepare among Japanese cuisines. Fine skill in cutting meat really makes the difference in taste; extremely fresh fish is needed, which means fishermen, dealers, and cooks must know how to catch, transport, and store the fish in a very fresh condition. A lot of skills are hidden behind the no-cook. This is really an art, and definitely a different kind of art than that found in Western cooking. Some Western cuisines are great: we taste the skills of chefs. Sushi is also great: we taste the materials themselves (fig. 1). Chefs' skills are hidden: they are devoted to keeping the fresh and natural flavor of the materials. These are two different attitudes toward cooking, and I see in them a reflection of the aesthetics of different cultures. Similar differences are found also in science. I want to describe the differences in science by discussing four pairs of contrasting concepts found in the two cultures. They are one/many, gap/no gap, "I'Vno "I," and word/fact (see bottom of fig. 2). These differences are found not only in science but also in various other fields of human activities. These differences seem to appear most clearly in religion, perhaps because religion itself has been one of the main forces to drive society in such a direction. Therefore, I will first describe the differences in the religions of the West and the East in order to illuminate the differences in their science. Here I consider the West to be Western Europe and North America and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 489-504
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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