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Tales from the Belly of Japan

'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times

In this often hilarious yet deeply researched book, food and travel writer Michael Booth and his family embark on an epic journey the length of Japan to explore its dazzling food culture. They find a country much altered since their previous visit ten years earlier (which resulted in the award-winning international bestseller Sushi and Beyond).

Over the last decade the country’s restaurants have won a record number of Michelin stars and its cuisine was awarded United Nations heritage status. The world’s top chefs now flock to learn more about the extraordinary dedication of Japan’s food artisans, while the country’s fast foods – ramen, sushi and yakitori – have conquered the world. As well as the plaudits, Japan is also facing enormous challenges. Ironically, as Booth discovers, the future of Japan’s culinary heritage is under threat.

Often venturing far off the beaten track, the author and his family discover intriguing future food trends and meet a fascinating cast of food heroes, from a couple lavishing love on rotten fish, to a chef who literally sacrificed a limb in pursuit of the ultimate bowl of ramen, and a farmer who has dedicated his life to growing the finest rice in the world… in the shadow of Fukushima. They dine in the greatest restaurant in the world, meet the world champion of cakes, and encounter wild bears. Booth is invited to judge the world sushi championship, ‘enjoys’ the most popular Japanese dish you have never heard of aboard a naval destroyer, and unearths the unlikely story of the Englishwoman who helped save the seaweed industry.

Sushi and Beyond was also a bestseller in Japanese where its success has had improbable consequences for Booth and his family. They now star in their own popular cartoon series produced by national broadcaster NHK.

Reviews

His writing has been compared to Bill Bryson's... and, like Bryson, he gives a light touch to weighty topics, but the comedy does not diminish the informative heft of this foodie odyssey... Readers will enjoy generous helpings of insights into some of the world's finest sustenance.

Peter Cary

Booth is drawn to the offbeat, and The Meaning of Rice gives us a banquet of the unfamiliar... What Booth does best is a masterclass in Japanese cuisine from haute to caff counter... Beneath the light-hearted surface is a depth of research, respect and affection for Japanese culture and the quiet stoicism of its people.

Lee Langley, Spectator

The Meaning of Rice…will have you salivating for the Land of the Rising Sun.

Wanderlust

It is not just a book of food though, it is a warm and funny tome which sees Michael and his family venture far off the beaten track to find a fascinating cast of food heroes, from a couple lavishing love on rotten fish to a chef who literally sacrificed a limb in pursuit of the ultimate bowl of ramen. It’s fun and full of food and Michael has been dubbed the new Bill Bryson – not bad then!

Rebecca Hay, Clitheroe Advertiser & Times

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Formats & editions

Also by Michael Booth

The Almost Nearly Perfect People
Eat Pray Eat
Sushi and Beyond
Doing without Delia
Just As Well I'm Leaving

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