Christiania project serves up Japanese food with a twist

During the month of June, head to Christiania for Japanese food made with expired, yet edible ingredients.

Christiania project serves up Japanese food with a twist
Japanese food with a twist. Photo: Maiko Shintani

Expired foods have never tasted this good. That’s the idea behind a new project in Christiania started by Maiko Shintani, a Japanese expat living in Copenhagen. “Cooking Japanese dishes by food wastes” – as the event is called, will go on during the entire month of June.

As its name implies, the meals will be cooked with expired yet still edible foods found at the WeFood, the first supermarket in Denmark to sell nothing but surplus food.

See also: Denmark just took a major step to eliminate food waste

“It’s always both interesting and challenging to think about what you could do, should do and want to do in your life. My project was somehow born through this process”, Shintani told The Local.

Shintani will offer different dates throughout June in which she will prepare meals that will range in price from completely free to just 50 kroner. As part of the event, attendees will be able to try their hand at making sushi, playing with origami and conversing in Japanese.

Shintani said that Christiania, the largely self-governed enclave in the heart of Copenhagen, was the ideal location to begin her project, considering the former hippie commune's long-running support for artistic exploration and expression through the Christiania Researcher in Residence (CRIR) programme.

According to the CRIR website the aim of the programme is “to involve artists, researchers and academics in an open, critical and reflective dialogue around the free town in Christiania in Copenhagen, and to feed new creative and critical thinking into the public realm.”

Shintani joins a list of researchers from Norway, England, Belgium, Lithuania, Sweden, Austria, France, and the United States who have conducted research in Christiania. 

Maiko Shintani, a Japanese expat living in Denmark is organizing the project. Photo: Maiko Shintani

Maiko Shintani, a Japanese expat living in Denmark is organizing the project. Photo: Maiko Shintani

Christiania’s approach to sustainability was another reason Shintani chose that specific location to host her project.

“I got to know that Christiania has a long history for recycling and reusing materials to stop waste. In Japan, we have a word that conveys a sense of regret concerning waste. 'Mottainai' means roughly 'what a waste!' in English. It seems we have common philosophy between Christiania and Japan,” she told The Local. 

Although Shintani is unsure of what the impact of the project will be, she hopes to educate visitors about the diversity found in Japanese cuisine – which many assume is limited to sushi but actually goes far beyond that. She also hopes her project will get the ball rolling for the next year's 150th anniversary of Denmark and Japan commencing diplomatic relations.

To register for specific events and find out more about Shintani’s project head here.

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Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.