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on 3 August 2010
From the schism between Kanto and Kansai, from Hokkaido to Okinanwa, from sake to soy, Sushi and beyond is follows the adventure of a man and his young family around the genius food epicentre that is Japan.

This book is a food travel diary, which is a good thing as it differentiates it from a simple culture/cookbook. Booth seems to have some good credentials when it comes to cooking, as well as a witty writing style and a gaijin-only daring, making his story both fascinating and funny. It covers all of the subjects mentioned above, as well as seaweed, the fish market, MSG, vegetables, ramen, beef, wasabi and regional specialities amongst others. He even manages to visit the best secret restaurant in the whole of Japan.

He also interviews famous chefs, protective farmers and celebrated experts. Every story is a mixture of passion for food, and a touch of sadness, for the loss of interest in traditional Japanese cuisine.

With a base of good research and a dash of humility and humor, Booth manages to both engage and excite the reader... and their tastebuds.
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on 29 December 2013
I am an expatriate from Japan. I happened to read this book as I learned the translation became one of the selling books in Japan.
The story covers almost all the typical cuisine from northern to far southern territory with in-depth insight and abundant experience that even normal Japanese rarely encounter. I found a lot of things, including what is not open to public thru reading this book. I would like to recommend this vivid report which an ordinary Japanese would be unable to notice to those who have interests not merely with Japanese food but with the country itself.
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on 5 August 2012
Michael Booth is a fluent writer, and the book contains some entertaining anecdotes as he travels around Japan for three months with his family. However for me it was marred by a lack of editing, and the feeling that it was not quite foodie enough for hard core food lovers, and yet not quite authentic enough a travelogue for someone looking for a travel book. It rather falls between two stools in this regard. Japan and its food scene is vast, varied and complex, so it is hardly surprising that on what appears to be his only trip to Japan he could only lift the kimono a little. I enjoyed his account of a wagyu beef farm, but it was odd for him to just dismiss the whole genre of Japanese beef as "it's not ice cream, it's an animal". Sure, the ultra-marbled specimens of beef are so soft that you can forget you are eating beef, but then just opt for one of the less marbled grades, as many top chefs do.

As someone who has worked in professional kitchens he has generally good insight into food, and it is nice to see that he does not get too carried away with the mystique e.g. he also seems to find fugu a fish that is as much valued for its sense of danger as its inherent taste, or lack thereof. On the other hand some of the travel observations seem peculiar - Japanese taxi drivers are unfailingly polite, but many are utterly clueless about finding even straightforward destinations (the stagnant economy has lured many non-professional cabbies into this profession), so his comments here seem strange, or at least very different to my own experiences in Japan. It is also a pity that he writes reverently about an invitation-only kaiseki restaurant that, by definition, few will be able to try. He could surely have compared this with some of the top kaiseki restaurants, such as Kitcho and Mizai in Kyoto, that readers could, albeit at a price, actually go to? Finally, some of the chapters seemed in need of a firm but kindly editor.

All in all, worth a read, but I had the feeling that this book could have been even better. Overall, his charm wins out over the book's flaws.
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on 27 April 2014
I bought this book whilst I was living in Japan as I thought it could be a good insight on my travels to try local cuisines. I was expecting a witty, humorous account of a writer unfamiliar with Japanese food and keen to discover more about Japanese food (and to a larger extent, Japanese culture).

Instead, I got a series of vignettes, too short to offer any significant information which seemed to mainly focus on the author's random thoughts rather than any true, meaningful cultural experiences. Of course, me not liking the author's tone is a personal preference I grant you but one thing I couldn't abide was the author's rudeness in certain situations.

For example, at the beginning of the book, the author says he will try to avoid being offensive towards the Japanese, yet later in the book he goes completely against this as he writes dialogue spoken by a Japanese person using r's instead of l's and vice versa - unnecessary and offensive in my opinion. Another episode that also left a feeling of distaste in my mouth is when the author has lunch with (what he assumes to be) a gay man, and precedes to be completely ignorant and homophobic when he runs away from the man, despite the man kindly paying for his lunch and seemingly interested in what the author has to say. If he was truly gay and romantically interested in the author, the author should have had the decency to state he was straight, married and not interested and continue acting like a civilised person but instead, he lies and runs away as quickly as possible, (using the excuse he wants a second lunch rather than the fact that being in the presence of a gay man makes him uncomfortable). What's worse is, he has a chance to redeem himself when coincidentally confronted by the man when he bumps into him later in the day, yet he only gives an insincere apology and precedes to run away again - leaving the man clearly confused and hurt.

There are some interesting episodes in the book and I did learn new things about Japanese food (hence 2 stars not 1) but frankly, it wasn't worth it for the author's tone and attitude which was rather ignorant and sometimes rude to the Japanese who all appeared to be as helpful and kind to him as possible. I was rather disappointed with the outcome, as the idea was good, if only another author had written it and executed it better!
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on 3 September 2009
If you've read the previous book by Booth on French food (Sacre Cordon Bleu), you will appreciate that Sushi and Beyond is equally entertaining and well written. This time around though, the experience is also truly enlightening, as the subject is one of which you quickly realize, that all you think you know is either wrong, inaccurate or deficient.

For a long time Japanese food have seemed like a tough nut to crack for me, but this is really the eye-opener I've been waiting for. If you - like me - have been scooping up every bit of food trivia you've come across, and feel there isn't much left you haven't read about (or tasted for that matter), this opens up an entire new dimension, and leaves you with the feeling that you've only barely seen the tip of the iceberg of all things edible.

The story is tied together as a classic piece of travel writing - although the authors family play a somewhat more prominent role (I can't help blaming my father, why he never had me wrestling sumos in Osaka). But this only adds an extra dimension to the mix, while never removing focus from the food. The chapter on the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo alone, almost had me spending all my savings at the local travel agent (I recommend a Google image search for "Tsukiji" as inspiration).

The chapters on the Okinawan diet, the chemistry of MSG and the invitation only restaurant Mibu is some of the most compelling food literature I've come across in a long time, and I highly recommend this book to any food lover - especially if you're new to Japanese cuisine - like I was ...
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on 26 June 2014
I was given this book before an upcoming trip to Japan and really wasn't sure if I'd like it being aimed more at food enthusiasts. From the first few pages with their promise of insight into the longevity of the Japanese and health benefits of the Eastern diet coupled with the hilarious anecdotes and writing style of the author this was an absolute joy to read.

The book also gives a great insight into the different cities, people and food styles across Japan and I really feel I learned a lot about the place and food.
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on 21 April 2014
I loved this book as it captured so well the wide variety of Japanese food available, the history of certain foods and how some foods might fall out of fashion. Having travelled to most of the places the authored covered, I found his observations spot-on about the Japanese and their reverence for certain Japanese ingredients and foods. I found overall it was an entertaining and educational read.
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on 22 January 2014
What a great read. Very insightful into Japanese thinking/cooking and very funny to boot. Some interesting situations that he finds himself in and is a good fun read.

As stated this was recommended and bought for me by my Japanese mother-in-law who had read the translated version and loved it, so in my eyes that is good enough, I now know she has good taste in books and food!
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`Sushi and Beyond' is the story of one man's culinary travels around Japan. Michael Booth and his family spent three months in Japan experiencing the unique dishes and ingredients the country has to offer and through their eyes we get a deeper insight into both Japanese food and it's compelling and fascinating culture. Michael visits high class restaurants and street vendors in almost equal measure and shows us how various ingredients (miso, sake, tofu and soy to name a few) are grown and processed and how they can be used to best effect in cooking. The health benefits of Japanese food are espoused here and it is truly amazing just how beneficial for you some of the food is. This is written with great humour and the parts with his young boys add another dimension to what could be a rather staid book. This is part travelogue (with stories of random Japanese kindness and visits to sumo stables and other sights) and part food biog and these two aspects come together perfectly to create a fascinating book throughout. I am unsure, having not visited the places he mentions, how true to life or authentic this is, but as an account of ones mans experiences in Japan, this makes for interesting and enjoyable reading.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 12 April 2010
After reading "Sacré Cordon Bleu" ("Cooking without Delia"- as it was renamed), I think it is very difficult for Michael Booth to better his writing. The Japanese slant is good though & fairly funny. We are still living in dread of picking up a tapeworm or even worse parasite from raw fish, after the description of the museum in Tokyo! As travel writers go, Senyor Booth is approaching the early Bill Bryson stuff...long may he continue.
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