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Benihana is perhaps one of the best and most successful illustrations of Japanophilia to exist in the United States. Since its founding in 1965, this franchise has become radically popular amongst both Japanophiles and non-Japnophiles alike. The restaurant presents itself as a type of performance, a masquerade alluding to Japanese imagery. For instance, the interior of the restaurant simulates 16th century Japanese castle, noted by decorations that include “authentic” samurai armor, in addition to the “Japanese” style architecture. However, it is important to note that the evidence of resonant Japnophilia do not lay within the restaurant itself but rather within the performance that the chef puts on for the customers. The restaurant website emphasizes this, stating: “The Benihana combination of blending great food and a knife-wielding experience has established the most successful and longest running dinner show on earth.” The show and the performance experience of Benihana further gives it an exotic allure to it, further attributing to the Japnophilic characteristics of this restaurants. The beverage menu of the restaurant also attributes a very Japnophilic appeal to the restaurant itself as well. This is noted in such items as the mixed alcoholic beverage “Cherry Blossom” and the non-alcoholic kids beverage “The Ninja”. Overall this restaurant is Japanophilic in the sense that much of the merchandising and imagery that it has to offer often over-exotifies or alienates the Japanese in a way to make it “different”. In that sense the “Japanese” cultural experience of Benihana has many inauthentications to it. Interestingly enough the restaurant itself was actually founded by a Japanese-American, which may indicate an awareness within the Japanese/Japanese-American community of American society to consume and misappropriate the exotic. In many senses, this is proven to be true, as Benihana has continued to be popular for the past 42 years.

For more information on Benihana go to: www.benihana.com

boliva — Last modified Mar 30 2011 8:00 p.m.

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