En route book review #5

I picked up Atomic Sushi by Simon May in Notting Hill’s Travel Bookshop last summer, just as it was becoming clear that my long-lived plan to come to Japan was actually
going to happen. Never got round to reading it though. I didn’t want to read it in public in Japan (I’ve been there before) so I’ve been
reading it in the hotel and on planes to Australia.

It’s one of those fascinating-insight books, this time by a Brit who spent a year as
Professor of Philosophy at Tokyo University. Some of his conclusions (that the Japanese will never warm to foreigners, etc) were familiar from Will Ferguson’s Hokkaido Highway Blues (you still haven’t read
that book? What have you been doing with your time?) but he also
found himself in situations that Ferguson never did. Like, for
example, a Japanese-only fetish club in Shinjuku, or the weary
resignation of a middle-aged woman, well aware of the extramarital
wanderings of her husband but unable to do anything about it, while
also bearing the fierce animosity of her mother-in-law.

It’s a relatively quick read, with clear, spaced type (something I
appreciate after several huge books with dense printing) and short
chapters. It’s also funny and self-deprecating, and worth a look if
you’re interested in what goes on under the polished surface of Japan
(of which there is plenty that’s dodgy as hell – I’m sure I’ll come
back to this at a later date).


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