'Ethnic practices' in translation: Tea in Japan and the US

Kristin Surak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article I examine the specific dynamics shaping and forming migrant "ethnic practices". A comparison of tea ceremony in Japan and the US provides a particularly interesting site since its philosophy promotes universalism and adaptation to the surrounding environment in Japan and the US. I first briefly examine how tea is seen as quintessentially Japanese in Japan through cultural objectification, a process that disassociates it from everyday experiences and enables practitioners to re-internalize what is deemed quintessentially Japanese - yet distant and difficult. Then I explore how implications of tea as a Japanese practice shift when recreated in the US. In contrast to the situation in Japan, the practice is naturalized for Japanese in the US. But alongside such naturalization also emerges a suspicion of authenticity, particularly regarding how this "Japanese" practice is accomplished abroad. Consequently, practitioners attempt to recreate Japan as they recreate tea rather than following its precepts promoting integration with the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)828-855
Number of pages28
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Culture
  • Ethnic practices
  • Ethnicity
  • International migration
  • Japan
  • Transnationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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