Theodore C. Bestor
Theodore C. Bestor is Reischauer Institute Professor of Social Anthropology at Harvard University. He is a specialist on contemporary Japanese society and culture; much of his research focuses on Tokyo, and he has written widely on urban culture and history, local neighborhood society and identity, markets and economic organization, and food culture as defining aspects of urban Japanese life.
Bestor's major works include Neighborhood Tokyo (1989, Stanford University Press) and Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World (2004, University of California Press). He has been focusing on the market's closure in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and is currently working on the second edition of the book. He was a consultant for the documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland” (directed by Endo Naotaro, Shochiku 2016). His current research also focuses on Japanese food culture and, in particular, on the globalization of Japanese cuisine and its intense popularity throughout the world, as well as in UNESCO’s recognition of Japan’s traditional cuisine (washoku) as an item of Global Intangible Cultural Heritage.
He conducted research on this topic as a recipient of a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in Japan in the Spring of 2015. Victoria Lyon Bestor and he also are currently researching the cultural history of distinctive Japanese flavors such as umami (the so-called “fifth flavor”).
He is the co-editor of Doing Fieldwork in Japan (2003, University of Hawaii Press) with Patricia G. Steinhoff, and Victoria Lyon Bestor and Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society (2011, Routledge), a collection of essays ranging widely over history, arts, humanities, and social sciences.
He is the past Director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (2012-2018), past President of the Association for Asian Studies (2012-13), and the founding president of the Society for East Asian Anthropology. In June 2013 Bestor received the Commissioner’s Award for the Promotion of Japanese Culture from the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese government (文化庁長官表彰 文化発信部門). In 2017, Bestor received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon from the Japanese government. Also, the American Anthropological Association’s Society of Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology has presented him a “Lifetime Achievement Award” award in 2017.
Bestor received his Ph.D. and MA from Stanford University, and his BA from Fairhaven College of Western Washington University. He began his professional career as Program Director for Japanese and Korean Studies at the Social Science Research Council. After teaching at Columbia and Cornell universities, he joined the Harvard faculty in 2001.