Group Naga-Let’s Talk Food

Group Naga is doing wonderful on this Friday afternoon, and we are in a great position to begin recording our podcast this Sunday.  With the script coming together and research going great, we are having a blast delving into our topic of dragons and snakes.  For this post though, I wanted to take a short break from studying the history and myth of these dragons and snakes, and look into something a little more topical-food.

This is actually about food and drink to be more exact, and just a couple ways out of many that snakes are incorporated into them in modern east Asia.  Although some of these practices can be quite old, they are still in use and some are even gaining popularity.  To begin, I’d like to mention soup.  A traditional soup called Irabu-jiru (sea-snake soup) is made in Okinawa and was a royal court food of the Ryukyu kingdom (15th-19th century).  It is known to have medicinal properties such as functioning as an analeptic, something which affects the nervous system and can cause states of heightened awareness.  The purpose of mentioning this dish is the snakes association with the water (as they often are in myth), and its ability to imbue some kind of power when consumed.

Sea snake soup (Irabu-jiru)

A lovely bowl of Irabu-jiru

Gaining strength from snakes is not out of the ordinary though, and is certainly not restricted to sea snakes.

This brings us to the other half of any good meal, drinks.  A custom that may date back quite a while, but has gained immense popularity since the rise of tourism to east Asia, is snake wine.  Snake wine, if you are not familiar with it, is essentially what it sounds like, take some wine, then add some snake.  This can be prepared in a few different ways, none of which actually contain true wine, opting instead for a strong rice liquor.  The preparation for this drink is very important, and can mean the difference between having a mildly noxious drink to invigorate the soul, and a foul smelling bottle which may contain dissolving snake guts.  Or, if you are truly unlucky, a still alive and incredibly angry poisonous snake upon uncorking it (sorta like a jack in the box, but the extreme edition), this phenomenon potentially being due to a snakes ability to hibernate.  No matter how you craft it though, you can bet it has medicinal properties.  This ranges from a stimulant affect similar to the snake soup, all the way to being especially good for men, if you catch my drift.  It is also used to help ailments such as arthritis and other daily aches and pains.

By Scott R – originally posted to Flickr as DSC03889, CC BY-SA 2.0,

I found the use of these often poisonous snakes in cuisine to be quite interesting, and a good reminder that analyzing a subject may require you to look at it in ways outside of more traditional research such as finding secondary sources.  Although I may never drink snake wine, I must say, the soup doesn’t sound half bad. If I ever find myself in Okinawa I’ll have to hunt down a bowl.

-Will Sarros, group Naga


Group 3 Update 1/9/17

Greetings everyone,

Group 3 is not only surviving, but thriving. Today we had an extremely focused and on topic discussion in class as well as a productive meeting outside of class hours. We’re really making some good progress and I’m excited to share it with you. Unfortunately we have yet to develop a suitable name for our group but I can assure you that it is next on the docket.

We’ve narrowed our topic down quite a bit, and are now committed to exploring the role Confucianism plays in defining gender roles within Japanese society—specifically from the Heian and Kamakura periods of Japanese history that span from 794 to 1333 CE. The group has found some good primary and secondary sources from these time periods that deal with how society functioned at the time and the role that Confucianism played in the development of such societies. We also made some progress on the structure front of the podcast but I’ll save that for our presenter to cover tomorrow.

We also helped one another flesh out ideas for our individual research and I believe that we are making strong progress in all directions. Having such a cooperative group is very helpful for this process because it allows us to work well with one another and bounce ideas between us. Overall, I believe that we’re making strong headway towards a phenomenal podcast and I’m very excited to see what’s in store for our yet to be named group.

(Jacob Cooper’s Post)

Group 3 Day 4: Narrowing down our topic!!!

Hi everyone!

We finally finished the first week of class. It is going by so fast! As we all know, we had our first oral presentation covering the progress of the groups and the subjects being undertaken by each group. Today Henry did a great job presenting what we thought would be an intriguing topic to discuss on our podcast! Updating on group three, we think we have decided to focus on Confucianism’s influence on gender roles. We have also discussed shifting our stories from Chinese tales to Japanese tales. Some subtopic ideas we came to the conclusion of are marriage practices, women and nonstandard roles in the tales, and the standard of how women are treated in Confucianism.

In the tales we are going to search for examples of how women’s behavior and treatment are affected by Confucianism. In east Asian marriage history the women are known for moving in with their husband’s family and taking care of his parents. They view their virtue is determined by how they treat his parents. A nonstandard role for a woman would be one who does not get married at a young age and does not follow the statutes of Confucianism. A method by which a woman can avoid following these statutes would be becoming a nun and worshipping the gods and spirits.
Have a great weekend!