Most helpful critical review
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Trivial information with little real insight, occasionally offensive
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!