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BEST OF BOOKS

Need something to read in the new year?

by Mariko Kato

THE BLUE-EYED SALARYMAN: From World Traveler to Lifer at Mitsubishi, by Niall Murtagh (Profile Books)

This witty, real-life story follows the fate of a bemused ex-backpacker Irishman who finds himself settling down as a lifer at one of the largest and most conservative Japanese corporate companies, with a Japanese wife and a happy home. Murtagh’s humor is as informed as it is subtle, and his many hilarious anecdotes are underlined with a genuine warmth toward his colleagues whom he portrays as real individuals. This book is a lighthearted, yet thought-provoking, insight into the eventful life of the “Paradoxical Being” — the “native” foreigner.

Read the full review of “A Blue-eyed Salaryman.”

JAPAN THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS by Alan Macfarlane (Profile Books)

“In many ways I was like Alice, that very assured and middle-class English girl, when she walked through the looking glass.” So admits Alan Macfarlane, a Cambridge professor of anthropology, in recalling his first visit, at age 48, to Japan. Unlike your usual anecdotal tale about Japan, this highly informative book is a passport into the country’s anthropological and historical background. With reference to both his experiences and those of past travelers, the lucid prose engages you in an inspired discussion about this enigmatic country.

Read the full review of “Japan Through the Looking Glass.”

KAISEKI: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant, by Yoshihiro Murata (Kodansha International)

This artistic masterpiece presents the innovative ideas of chef Yoshihiro Murata, third-generation owner-chef of Kikunoi, the celebrated kaiseki (traditional multicourse) cuisine restaurant. The book is a detailed “diary” that lovingly describes each dish as a personal triumph, where readers hear Murata’s thoughts behind his menus and observe his technical expertise. Beautiful photographs by Masashi Kuma capture this culinary journey through the seasons, making the prestigious kaiseki cuisine seem very close and familiar. At the end of the book, Murata, in what is a rare occasion, treats the reader to some step-by-step directions for his own recipes.

Read the full review of “Kaiseki.”

Mariko Kato is a freelance arts writer for The Japan Times and is currently pursuing a masters in comparative and international education at Oxford Universiy.