First We Feast's new series ‘Gochi Gang’ premiered this Tuesday. Hosted by YouTuber, anime producer, and food lover Reina Scully, the show highlights the cultural impact of Japanese cuisine in the U.S. beyond sushi and ramen. The name Gochi Gang was inspired by the Japanese phrase for gratitude, “gochisousama,” which is typically expressed after a meal. The gang represents the spirit of togetherness that sharing food with others brings.
Japanese cuisine was gradually introduced to the United States decades ago. Initially, immigrants unaccustomed to American food would only eat imports. Since the end of the 19th century, Japanese immigrants were concentrated in neighborhoods called Nihonmachi, or it’s aptly named English counterpart, Japantown. While a macro view of these neighborhoods may correlate them negatively to a “ghetto,” Nihonmachis actually provided a space for Japanese culture to persist on foreign soil. It’s within these areas importation of homeland goods began slowly spreading to Americans in neighborhoods beyond.
Naturally, Japanese cuisine is vast. Sushi and ramen popularity within the US can be traced back to the post-World War II invention of instant noodles and endorsement of sushi by the McGovern Report. The McGovern Report (Dietary Goals for the United States, 1977) was published by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Due to this, Japanese cuisine spread, yet has been mostly spearheaded by sushi and ramen.
Gochi Gang aims to burst the floodgates to Japanese cuisine wide open. For Japanese people, preparing and eating food goes beyond mere sustenance. Reina Scully shared her thoughts on why it’s important to raise awareness about the culture and cuisine:
“Both Japanese culture and cuisine are multifaceted and interconnected with each other. Japanese food is generally typecast as ramen and sushi, but that’s just the very tip of the iceberg. There’s so much that’s worth exploring and the world deserves more insight into Japanese culture and food because it reveals how important of a role it plays in our history and tradition.“
Scully hopes that viewers not only learn about the wide range of tasty options, but also see how respectful Japan is regarding food. “We believe that food itself is spiritual and we treat it and those who prepare it with the utmost respect and gratitude,” Scully expressed. I personally believe that when food is connected to something deeper, it elevates the food itself. Equipped with experience and a little help from notable foodies, Scully is prepared to take you on a journey through the history of Japanese cuisine. Catch the first episode of Gochi Gang HERE and after you fill up on brain food, remember to say gochisousama!