Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan by Will Ferguson

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It had never been done before. Not in 2,000 years of Japanese recorded history had anyone followed the Cherry Blossom Front from one end of the country to the other. Nor had anyone hitchhiked the length of Japan. But, heady on sakura and sake, Will Ferguson bet he could do both. The resulting travelogue is one of the funniest and most illuminating books ever written about Japan. And, as Ferguson learns, it illustrates that to travel is better than to arrive.

Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan

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For Fukui’s Sake: Two years in rural Japan by Sam Baldwin

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Far from the high-tech, high-rise of the super-cities, there lies another Japan.
A Japan where snakes slither down school corridors, where bears prowl dark forests and where Westerners are still regarded as curious creatures. Welcome to the world of the inaka – the Japanese countryside.
Unhappily employed in the UK, Sam Baldwin decides to make a big change. Saying sayonara to laboratory life, he takes a job as an English teacher in a small, rural Japanese town that no one – the Japanese included – has ever heard of.
Arriving in Fukui, where there’s ‘little reason to linger’ according to the guidebook, at first he wonders why he left England. But as he slowly settles in to his unfamiliar new home, Sam befriends a colourful cast of locals and begins to discover the secrets of this little known region.
Helped by headmasters, housewives and Himalayan mountain climbers, he immerses himself in a Japan still clutching its pastoral past and uncovers a landscape of lonely lakes, rice fields and lush mountain forests. Joining a master drummer’s taiko class, skiing over paddies and learning how to sharpen samurai swords, along the way Sam encounters farmers, fishermen and foreigners behaving badly.
Exploring Japan’s culture and cuisine, as well as its wild places and wildlife, For Fukui’s Sake is an adventurous, humorous and sometimes poignant insight into the frustrations and fascinations that face an outsider living in small town, backcountry Japan.

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A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

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Anthony Bourdain, life-long line cook and bestselling author of “Kitchen Confidential”, sets off to eat his way around the world. But being Anthony Bourdain, this was never going to be a conventional culinary tour. Bourdain heads out to Saigon where he eats the still-beating heart of a live cobra, and travels deep into landmined Khmer Rouge territory to find the rumoured Wild West of Cambodia (Pailin). Other stops include dining with gangsters in Russia, a medieval pig slaughter and feast in northern Portugal, the Basque All Male Gastronomique Society in Saint Sebastian, rural Mexico with his Mexican sous-chef, a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and a return to his roots in the tiny fishing village of La Teste, where he first ate an oyster as a child. Written with the inimitable machismo and humour that has made Tony Bourdain such a sensation, “A Cook’s Tour” is an adventure story sure to give you indigestion.

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23 Sweet FAs: Round the World with a Football Table by Andy Sloan

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23 Sweet FAs records Andy’s adventure through Europe, Russia, Iran, India, the Himalayas and the Far East. He encountered a warm welcome from the president of FIFA, witnessed the titanic clash of Iran v Iraq, took tea in the home of the Dalai Lama, survived tragedy on Mount Everest and celebrated triumph in Japan. Bursting with enthusiasm, football histories and fascinating trivia, 23 Sweet FAs proves that cultural difference is no barrier when it comes to the beautiful game.

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People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief And A Journey Into Japan’s Shadows by Richard Lloyd Parry

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Lucie Blackman – tall, blonde, and 21 years-old – stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.
The seven months in between had seen a massive search for the missing girl, involving Japanese policemen, British private detectives, Australian dowsers and Lucie’s desperate, but bitterly divided, parents. As the case unfolded, it drew the attention of prime ministers and sado-masochists, ambassadors and con-men, and reporters from across the world. Had Lucie been abducted by a religious cult, or snatched by human traffickers? Who was the mysterious man she had gone to meet? And what did her work, as a ‘hostess’ in the notorious Roppongi district of Tokyo, really involve?
Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, has followed the case since Lucie’s disappearance. Over the course of a decade, he has travelled to four continents to interview those caught up in the story, fought off a legal attack in the Japanese courts, and worked undercover as a barman in a Roppongi strip club. He has talked exhaustively to Lucie’s friends and family and won unique access to the Japanese detectives who investigated the case. And he has delved into the mind and background of the man accused of the crime – Joji Obara, described by the judge as ‘unprecedented and extremely evil’.
With the finesse of a novelist, he reveals the astonishing truth about Lucie and her fate. People Who Eat Darkness is, by turns, a non-fiction thriller, a courtroom drama and the biography of both a victim and a killer. It is the story of a young woman who fell prey to unspeakabale evil, and of a loving family torn apart by grief. And it is a fascinating insight into one of the world’s most baffling and mysterious societies, a light shone into dark corners of Japan that the rest of the world has never glimpsed before.
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Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein

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From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, firsthand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from the underbelly up. At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a life of crime …crime reporting, that is, at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss – and the threat of death for him and his family – Adelstein decided to step down …momentarily. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein tells the riveting, often humorous tale of his journey from an inexperienced cub reporter – who made rookie mistakes like getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor – to a daring, investigative journalist with a price on his head. With its vivid, visceral descriptions of crime in Japan and an exploration of the world of modern-day yakuza that even few Japanese ever see, Tokyo Vice is a deeply thought-provoking book: equal parts cultural expose, true crime, and hard-boiled noir.
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