Many Japanese foodies are enamored with the hamburger, in much the same way that their American counterparts are often besotted with ramen. The number of hamburger shops in Tokyo has exploded in the last decade, but there are also signs that the fascination runs deeper: There are books, magazines and websites in Japanese devoted to eating — and understanding — the hamburger.

Yoshihide Matsubara is the author of many of them, including "The Burger Map," an authoritative guidebook to Kanto area burger shops. He insists, however, that he's not just riding a trend; his love affair with the hamburger goes back further. It's the cultural differences, between patties formed West and East, that he finds so captivating.

In a sense, Matsubara grew up with the hamburger: He was born just a few weeks after McDonald's made its first appearance in Japan — opening a shop in Ginza in the summer of 1971, and henceforth defining hamburgers for the whole country. However, it wasn't until a chance visit to Wendy's in 2004 piqued his interest in "hamburgers that weren't McDonald's" that he began to get serious about them.