If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, a glimpse into a city’s soul is no doubt through her cuisine. Chef, sommelier and Japan-certified shochu advisor Yukari Sakamoto’s book, “Food·Sake·Tokyo,” offers a tasteful insight into Tokyo’s gastronomic galaxy that is sometimes hard to navigate even for locals. Released last month and written from the perspective of an America-based Japanese person, “Food·Sake·Tokyo” will heighten the culinary sensitivities of any tourist in Japan, making for a more full-flavored visit.
Extensive lists of seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish are recommended—with a special section on the best catch of the season for sushi. In the “Food” section the author offers instruction on sushi etiquette: Making a slush out of your soy sauce and wasabi will inadvertently cause it to lose its aroma, while at the same time insult the chef, explains Sakamoto—yet it is not too uncommon to see born and bred Japanese do just that.
“Food·Sake·Tokyo” gives pithy and up-to-date introductions to the essence of over a dozen districts of historical and culinary significance in Tokyo, with a sprinkling of useful tips and interesting observations from the author’s own dining experiences. (For example: Don’t ask what you’re eating at a naizo ryori/horumon, or offal cuisine, establishment until after you’ve savored and swallowed the tasty morsel!)
Even long-term foreign residents of Japan will find the lexicons of food categories and dining etiquette in the book extremely handy. For any expat who has ever wondered what the proper name is for your favorite choice of oden, this book lists them all, from age boru (ball-shaped deep fried fish cakes) to yaki chikuwa (fish paste shaped into a cylinder and grilled).
Foreigners can also impress the locals by applying the appropriate onomatopoeic description of food sensations—from atsu atsu ramen, neba neba natto to puru puru tofu—a list of which is thoughtfully provided.
Sakamoto’s sommelier and shochu advisory acumen sparkles in the excellent “Beverages” section with vivid descriptions of the tastes and textures of various teas, sake and shochu, as well as tips on which areas produce the best types of each. A helpful list of antenna shops, or shops selling regional goods, allows tourists and Tokyoites alike to purchase products usually distinct to a particular region.
Rounding up the easily digestible tome, peppered with delightful food photography, Sakamoto recommends a couple of culinary itineraries within Tokyo, day trips from Tokyo and culinary souvenirs to reminisce about the flavors of Japan.
This review by Ching-Li Tor first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal: