Determining one’s own cultural identity can often be more complex than one may initially realize. Although I am from the West Coast of the United States, I grew up with a mother that spoke fluent Japanese, a sister who was born in Tokyo, an education in ceramics based on Japanese principles, and a community that would regularly attend Dharma talks at the local Buddhist temple. As a result, most of my life I have had an intense focus on Japanese culture. Although I think of myself as ethnically Italian, and culturally from California, in many ways I consider Japan to be my spiritual home. While I was aware of most of this, I didn’t realize how much it affected my life until the Tohoku earthquake, and the consequential Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, also known as 3/11.
Prior to 3/11 Fukushima was largely known for two culinary attractions: Dumplings (called Gyoza in Japanese) and Peaches. Tragically, since the Daiichi disaster, food from Fukushima has largely been presumed toxic, ultimately casting a larger shadow over the regions proud tradition of foodways and its cultural sense of self. After visiting the Fukushima region for myself in 2014, it occurred to me that one of the more significant forms of resistance to the “slow violence” of the 3/11 disaster was to prepare and serve Gyoza in the traditional Fukushima style, and to use the meal as an opportunity to share the story of Fukushima and my experience there with others.