I never get tired of reading about other people's experiences in my adopted homeland of Japan so this month, I chose something close to my heart. It’s a story about traveling, food, and Japan by an author who happens to live in my hometown of Seattle! I didn't realize this was Amster-Burton's second book after Hungry Monkey : A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, which I have yet to read but I must say, this is one entertaining romp through one of the world's best gastronomic capitals, Tokyo.
The book I chose to review may have a strange title to Americans maybe, but if you have ever been to Nakano, where Amster-Burton's family stayed for a month while experiencing the culinary life of Tokyo, it would not surprise you. Japan is full of English signs that don't seem to make any sense to native speakers. Amster-Burton covers what every novice or first time visitor should check out--ramen, sushi, okonomiyaki ( a Japanese style of pancake which is savory, not sweet) and of course takoyaki (octopus balls which are a staple in Osaka). All of this he accomplishes with his 8-year- old daughter in tow (and a wife who actually suggests living in Tokyo for a short spell).
You will be captivated not only by him and his daughter satisfying their palates, but also finding joy in the way they find everything about Japan fascinating--riding on the bullet train, browsing the depa-chika (the food section in the basement of department stores), the convenience stores, and other everyday things most expats take for granted.
It reminded me of all my solitary food excursions I used to take when I first moved here, but as the author only spent a short time here, he missed out on a variety of food festivals that are held almost weekly throughout the summer at Yoyogi Park. Still, even a long time resident of Japan will be able to “gobble” up this food and travel memoir.