Otomobori Sliding Udon Event

とくいの銀行とコラボ企画  うどん盆踊り(北海盆唄)  With Tokui No Bank Udon Bondance (Hokkai Bon song)

For this event, we made udon noodles from a local flour mill in Ebetsu, mixing strong and weak flours to make the dough. This super high quality! noodle  was then kneaded underfoot, to the rhythm of Obon dance, a style of folk dancing performed during Obon (the Buddhist custom honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors). Our rotation brought our feet down onto this super high quality! (soon to be super rare) noodle dough to make it tougher and tastier.




その一方で、 国内生産10%の大部分をまかなう北海道十勝の製粉会社は、独自のブランド作りに勢力をあげている。ある製粉会社は、国産を売りにする製麺業や製パン業に卸すほかに、アジア圏への消費をもくろみシンガポールに事務所を開いた。北海道産小麦が一流ブランドとなることにより、より付加価値のある小麦加工品を生み出すしくみをつくりあげている。小麦業界はこの二つの動きだけとは限らないが、そのうちこの国に暮らす人々は、輸入小麦だけを口にし、自国でつくった小麦は自分たちは食べられなくなるのであろう。今はそのギリギリのところに来ているのではないだろうか。

Elaboration on a presentation to attendees of the Otomobori Sliding Udon event:


To bring up another kind of noodle, the term “Noodle Bowl” is an economic term meaning when bilateral Free Trade Agreements overlap and criss-cross one region; the ASEAN countries are often referred to in this way. For instance, the parts of a pasta maker may come from various places because of cheaper manufacturing costs and different agreements between each country. The plastic parts might have been made in Taiwan, the engine made in Hong Kong or Korea, and the final assembly finished in China.

noodle-machineAs one object’s production (textiles and consumer electronics are oft-cited examples) is split across several areas because of lower costs, 1 to 1 free trade deals between particular countries create a nest of bureaucratic complications and extra costs due to rules of origin within each deal. This is the argument for creating a “harmonizing” rule for a multilateral market region, which TPP seeks to do. However, some conservative economists argue against certain preferential rules for those within the trade deal (1), for instance “yarn forward,” the condition that “all products in a garment from the yarn stage forward must be made in one of the countries that is party to the agreement” (2) and could hand out penalties for, say, carrying out production in China.

TPP is so secretive that it is hard to tell whether they will push such rules or whether “liberalization should be the goal.” (3) Their agenda is, however, not to reconstitute a more holistic commodity, but to further reduce barriers. We can imagine in the future the object’s abstraction deepening, gradually casting away the term “origin” altogether (4), drawing particles toward itself from disparate factories or touching down fleetingly, growing to completion in anonymous ports. On paper, the noodle straightens out, but the experience can only be expected to be as scrambled as ever.

The parts of a machine are one thing, and humans are another. What is the cost of the human noodle bowl, with people suspended in the tangle between different countries? Looking at clips from the film “The Forgotten Space” by Allan Sekula and Noël Burch (2010), we see ship workers carrying our kitchen accessories from port to port, and the fragmented, remote and disempowered identities that power these journeys. That the Hokkai Bon dances that toughened our udon noodles trace their origins to rituals of the working class culture of Hokkaido’s coal mining history gave us something to chew on. What kinds of culture might we expect from the ship workers as transportation gets ever more expansive and globalized? What is the song of the free trade human?

1)  Derek Scissors, “Rules of Origin Can Make or Break the Trans-Pacific Partnership” http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/08/rules-of-origin-can-make-or-break-the-trans-pacific-partnership#_ftnref1
2) American Chamber of Commerce, Vietnam: http://www.amchamvietnam.com/4591/tpp-rules-of-origin-for-textiles-and-apparel-yarn-forward/
3) Derek Scissors
4) Often mentioned in quotation marks, as if to be from somewhere is the most ironic notion: “Rules of origin establish what percentage of an export needs to be made of content from the exporting country in order to qualify for reduced tariff rates.  In other words, rules of origin determine where a product “comes from”. With the proliferation of global supply chains, the crisscrossing of intermediate goods has made calculating what tariffs apply where a considerably difficult task.  But factor in that rules of origin are different for each product and each FTA, and determining the “origin” of one’s goods soon becomes a mathematical feat of mammoth proportions.” http://www.americansecurityproject.org/untangling-trade-how-tpp-can-help-american-businesses/

Scenes screened from The Forgotten Space

Pt. 1
And the ship…

Be aware that in the end
two people that love each other
will be apart
But we promise each other
that we’ll stay true
We’ll wait ’till we come home to be together

The ship never sails anywhere near North America, and yet the ship only serves rice from California. California rice is richly subsidized and floods the world market; Korean rice farmers go bankrupt.
The ship is carrying fewer containers than usual. Cargo is down by a third. The stern deck is opened up to the sky and the winter sun.




-11-9-8 -7-6-5

Pt. 2
“I love Hong Kong! Beautiful!”
Ocean shipping was the first industry to be globalized, in a deliberate effort to pay the lowest possible wages. This was because of another post-war maritime invention of the Americans, the flag of convenience, which allows ships owned in the rich countries to register in the poor countries like Liberia and Panama. This legal loophole makes it possible to hire cheaper foreign crews and avoid safety rules and regulations. Taken together, the flag of convenience and the container take us back to a world of relentless toil, interrupted only briefly.
It is Filipinos who are the globalized world’s most itinerant workers. Young men go to sea, and women, many young and some older, are domestics in the cities of the rich. Every Sunday, scores of thousands of maids, who work in isolation throughout the week, gather in Hong Kong’s Central, turning the vacant space beneath the banks into picnic ground, hair salon, church, school, dance hall, and political forum.
“Only on Sundays do I sometimes feel free. Not a maid anymore. But when it comes to nine o’clock in the evening on Sunday: ‘Here we are again! My God! It’s too hard.’ With my first contract, I took care of a three-year old girl. Then with my second contract I took care of a nine- and a two-year old. And now with my contract I am taking care of a nine- and an eleven-year old. And I count them as my kids. We are very much trained before we come here. We are very literate even though we are underpaid. Imagine a white collar in my country may only receive maybe one-third of the salary of a domestic helper here. And then the everyday expenses. Everything we buy is so expensive there. How could you survive. I can’t see any hope here on my part. Because my job is so hard. As if there is no progress. There is no progress at all.”
Maids and sea-farers meet. A brief encounter. Isolated in the house; lonely aboard the ship; far from home; cleaning all the time.

海運業は、慎重な努力の結果、最初の少ない賃金でまかなえるグローバル化さ れた産業だった。これは戦後アメリカが作った海上ルール(創案)によるもので、便宜置籍船という。裕福な国の保有する船を、リベリアやパナマなどの貧しい 国の所有物として登録する。この法律の盲点によって安全策や条例などをすり抜けて、支払う賃金の安い外国の乗組員を雇うことができる。この便宜置籍船とコ ンテナは、まさに私たちを情けなしの労役へと引き戻しているのだ。

この国でメイドとして稼ぐ      3分の1くらいしか稼げない。

-4-3-2 -1
Pt. 3
Still the ship…
“In Jakarta I lived for a year without a job. Then I tried to find work. But as there was no work I decided to go to sea. So since 1997 I have worked as a seaman. This ship is new so the work goes smoothly. On a new ship you only have to clean with soap. On an old vessel a lot more work has to be done. Every day you have to remove the rust and paint it over again. A good company wants to have it primed at least three times. Normal companies just put the paint on right away. Another example: A good company provides safety glasses for removal. A normal company will not do that. In that case we have to pay for them ourselves. Also in the work there are big differences between the Koreans and us Indonesians. To begin with, Koreans are less sociable. Secondly, the officer can only speak a little Indonesian. And with all the others we speak only in sign language. Talking is almost impossible, almost nonexistent. “One”, “two” works in English, the rest is Korean.”
“Hanjin Budapest ready to work! Hanjin Budapest ready to work! Hanjin Budapest ready to work! Hanjin Budapest ready to work!”




Japanese translation: TSUJITA Mihoko