kodawari (拘り) or (こだわり): obsession, fixation, hangup, determination, fastidiousness, pickiness about (trait, style, etc.)
Think: Ahab, White Whales, monomania, dissertations.
It’s also related to a passion for ramen (sidenote: this is where I get my ramen), which is not unrelated. Apparently ramen only became a major American culinary obsession in the mid-1990s, and took off when Momofuku opened in 2004. Before that time, Ramen was considered, well, cheap instant rations necessary to the survival of scrappy starving college students. Add a healthy dose of cultural kodawari to the ol’ Cup of Noodles and what you have is a 5000% increase on the value of a bowl of ramen over the course of two decades.
This, I think, is a metaphor for what we humanities grad students strive to achieve through our kodawari with our dissertation work: the alchemical transmutation of some boring overlooked research materials into, well, something profoundly interesting and relevant. Through our archival noodling, we quest for the golden noodle.
Another related metaphor for graduate school: