Eric C. Rath

A man wearing a blue collared shirt with his arms crossed smiling at the camera
  • Professor
  • Premodern Japan; Social and Cultural History; Food History; Traditional Performing Arts.

Contact Info

Wescoe Hall, Room 3624
Consultation Hours:
By Appointment


As a historian, I am interested in how groups, institutions, and governments attempt to designate normative practices by appealing to what is identified as "tradition," the dynamic array of customs, familial claims, rituals, and artifacts, which are created, repurposed and displayed in exercises of power by professions and to serve the ideology of the state. Scholars have viewed "tradition" as a product of the rise of the modern nation. However, my training as a historian of premodern Japan enables me to investigate in the longue durée how the invention of tradition is part of a longer historical strategy in the construction of authority. My research documents the development of arts, ideas, and customs synonymous with national culture today and I endeavor to restore contingency, change, conflict, and heterogeneity into these otherwise hegemonic narratives of "tradition."

My research specialty is traditional Japanese food culture, and my books include Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan (University of California, 2010), Japan’s Cuisines: Food, Place and Identity (Reaktion Books 2016), and Oishii: The History of Sushi (Reaktion Books 2021).  I am a member of the editorial collective of Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies, and I am currently writing a history of sake. 


Research Interests

  • Premodern Japan
  • Traditional Japanese food
  • Dietary culture


I teach courses in premodern Japanese history and Japanese dietary cultures including "History of Sushi" and "Beer, Sake, and Tea: Beverages in Japanese History."

Teaching Interests

  • Premodern Japan
  • Japanese dietary cultures
  • Tibet

Selected Publications

Rath, E. (2023) "What Rats Reveal about Cooking in Late Medieval Japan," Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies 23(3), pp. 74-83.

Rath, E. "Bodaimoto: The Renaissance of the ‘Enlightened” Starter,’ Sake Times, September 30, 2021.

Rath, E. (2021). “Sake Journal (Goshu no nikki): Japan’s Oldest Guide to Brewing.” Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies, 21(4).

Rath, E. (2021, September 9). “Drinking in Tradition: A Short History of Izakaya.” Sake Times.

Rath, E. (2021). Oishii: The History of Sushi. London: Reaktion Books.

Rath, E. (2020). “Technology and Taste in East Asia: An Introduction.” Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies, 20(4), 51-52.

Rath, E. (2020). “Technologies of Taste: Restaurant Guides, Diners, and Dining Halls in Interwar Tokyo.” Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies, 20(4), 75-84.

Rath, E. (2020). “Known Unknowns in Japanese Food History.” Asian Pacific Perspectives, 16(2), 34-47.

Rath, E. (2020). “Some Tasting Notes on Year-Old Sushi: Funazushi, Japan’s Most Ancient and Potentially its Most Up-to-Date Sushi.” Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies, 20(1), 34-41.

Rath, E. (2019). “Writing “International” Cuisine in Japan: Murai Gensai’s 1903 Culinary Novel Kuidōraku.” In M. King, Culinary Nationalism in Asia (pp. 173-192). New York: Bloomsbury.

Rath, E. (2018). “Afterword: Foods of Japan, Not Japanese Food.” In N. Stalker, Devouring Japan: Global Perspectives on Japanese Culinary Identity (pp. 312-27). New York: Oxford University Press.

Rath, E. (2017). “For Gluttons not Housewives, Japan’s First Gourmet Magazine, Kuidōraku.” In A. Niehaus & T. Walravens, Feeding Japan: The Cultural and Political Issues of Dependency and Risk (pp. 83-111). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rath, E. (2018). “Should We Eat Washoku?: Reflections on ‘Japanese Traditional Dietary Cultures’” Certified by UNESCO. Jahrbuch Kulinaristik - The German Journal of Food Studies and Hospitality, 2(2018), 90-111.

Rath, E. (2017). “Historical Reflections on Culinary Globalization in East Asia”. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 17(3), 82-84.

Selected Presentations

Rath, E. (2021, November 11). Sushi Before Sushi: The Hidden (Fermented) History of Japanese Food. Freeman Lecture, Wesleyan University.

Rath, E. (2021, November 5). Sushi Before Sushi: The Hidden (Fermented) History of Japanese Food. Sophia University, Tokyo.

Rath, E. (2021, August 14). Sushi Before Sushi, Umami Before Umami: The Hidden (Fermented) History of Japanese Food. Culinary Historians of Southern California.

Rath, E. (2021, July 10). The Imaginary Cuisine of Medieval Japan. Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, Oxford, UK

Rath, E. (2020, December 22). "When Sushi was a Fermented Food". Japan Foundation, Toronto.

Rath, E. (2020, March 13). Some Tasting Notes on Year-Old Sushi. Taste Affinities Symposium, Victoria College, University of Toronto.

Rath, E. (2019, October 17). Diners, Densha, and Dives: How Mass Transportation Changed Food Writing in Interwar Japan. Have you eaten yet? The History and Culture of Food in East Asia, University of San Francisco.

Rath, E. (2019, May 30). Diners, Densha, and Dives: How Mass Transportation Changed Food Writing in Interwar Japan. Making East Asian Foods: Technologies and Values, 19th to 20th Centuries, University of Hong Kong.