Vol. 8, No. 2 (2012): 13–31.
Instant ramen attained national prominence in Japan beginning in 1958 with the release of the first nationally advertised brand, Chikin Ramen, produced and sold by Momofuku Ando’s Sanshī Shokuhin, later to be renamed the Nissin Foods Corporation. From the time of its release, instant ramen became one of the most widely advertised products in Japan. The industry, led by Nissin, was exceptionally successful in utilising marketing campaigns to capitalise on social transformations. The advertisements of the Nissin Foods Corporation are particularly useful indicators of shifts in social organisation, reflecting the transformation of norms and sensibilities occurring in Japan during the fifteen years following the introduction of the emblematic food of convenience. Nissin Foods Corporation reinvented its product and shifted advertising emphasis frequently to accommodate the changing milieu with respect to convenience foods. Initially marketed as a healthy meal full of essential vitamins and nutrients that provided an alternative to cooking for busy housewives, instant ramen quickly became a defining product symbolic of postwar youth culture in the 1960s. By tracing the shifts in instant ramen advertising from the earliest ads in newspapers to later spots on television, the essay will examine the evolving form and content of instant noodle advertising in Japan to illuminate the connections between popular food trends and larger social and political changes related to family organisation, nutritional science and projections of national identity.
George Solt is an assistant professor of Modern Japanese History in the Department of History at New York University. He is currently completing a manuscript on the history of ramen in Japan, focusing on the ways in which shifts in dietary habits are linked to transformations in labour, industry, foreign relations, nutritional science, mass media and national identity.