In 2008, British food writer Michael Booth embarked on a journey deep into the heart of Japanese food culture. The outcome of his three-month sojourn, a memoir titled "Sushi & Beyond," follows Booth and his young family from Hokkaido to Kyushu as they seek out gastronomic experiences that range from the sublime (dinner at Mibu, the cultish supper club in Ginza frequented by top chefs from around the world) to the bizarre (a meal featuring whale penis, followed by whale ice cream).
Originally released in 2010, the book met with acclaim in the West, and now the Japanese translation ("Eikoku Ikka Nihon wo Taberu"), which was published in April, is proving to be a hit in Japan as well.
Previously indifferent to a national cuisine he'd dismissed as "dull" and "all about appearance," Booth emerges from this encounter a complete convert. He describes the flavor of crabs from Hokkaido as "sensuous to the point of perversion" and when I ask about the Japanese foods he misses in Copenhagen, where he lives, he rattles off a list of favorite dishes: kushi-katsu (skewers of breaded, fried pork and other foods), yakitori and shiokara (fermented squid entrails). "I love it all, because the Japanese really know how to work their umami," he says.