Junko Takase’s “Oishii Gohan ga Taberaremasu Yoni” is a rare work that makes good food seem rather unsavory.
The novel that won the Akutagawa Prize this July is a deceptively mundane story depicting the everyday work life of three co-workers. It seems at first like a typical Japanese work place drama, poking fun at various office stereotypes. But the book also takes to task a “given” of urbane society (not just in Japan, although it’s certainly a mainstay of Japanese pop culture): the exaltation of foodie culture and the pursuit of deliciousness. The title, which roughly translates to “I wish to be able to eat delicious food,” suggests a story filled with loving depictions of gourmet scenes and smells — but the reality is much less appetizing. (At time of writing an English translation hasn’t been announced.)