Dreaming of Being a Chef? The Overseas Mobility of Young Japanese Women and Their Employment in Düsseldorf's Japanese Foodscapes
The temporary and permanent presence of numerous Japanese citizens in Dusseldorf is certainly one of the reasons why the offerings of Dusseldorf’s ‘Japanese’ food sector are particularly extensive and diverse in comparison to other German cities. In spite of increasing academic interest in the growing Japanese foodscapes, in Japanese communities abroad, and in the overseas mobility of Japanese women, so far there is almost no research on the relationship among these topics. Düsseldorf and the (young) women who work in gastronomy there offer an interesting case study in this context. Using qualitative data from a field study in Dusseldorf’s ‘Japanese’ foodscapes from 2016 onwards, this article focuses on young Japanese women working in this sector. One focus is on questions of how these women biographically locate their work in the food sector and what kind of importance they attach to it within their own life plans. The motives and ambitions of the women – whether private or professional – will be further discussed from the perspective of gender. As a result, on the one hand, gender specifics become evident in the life stories and working realities of the women. On the other hand, it turns out that choosing an (often precarious) employment in the ‘Japanese’ food service sector is often for pragmatic reasons and due to opportunity and network structures provided by ‘the’ Japanese community—but it may also be a possibility to realize individual life plans. Therefore, in many cases, working in the food sector is not so much about ‘dreaming of being a chef’ but can rather be characterized as ‘dreaming of being in charge of one’s own life’.
Keywords: Düsseldorfs Japanese community, employment in the Japanese food sector in Düsseldorf, female overseas mobility, living abroad, life plans
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