Sushi & Beyond is basically the story of one foodie (and his family's) journey through Japan, eating along the way.
I must admit, I'm actually quite jealous about how much money the author has to have, to be able to fly his family all the way there, travel through Japan (from Hokkaido to Okinawa) and eat so much good food. It's definitely not something that I can afford at the moment.
Oh, and he actually managed to meet Takuya Kimura, but didn't know who he was. I wish I was as lucky as him! I'm going to disagree with the "famous only in Japan" claim because I'm fairly certain SMAP is popular all throughout Asia.
The book may have been published in 2009 (and so, written in perhaps 2007 or 2008?), but apart from the price of Ramen, which can go over 1000 yen now, and perhaps some other things, the rest of the content feels evergreen.
Oh, and judging by the number of times this book was mentions, the author was very clearly more than a little inspired by Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuoka Tsuji. In fact, most of his before-trip knowledge came from there.
While I don't agree with all his pronouncements on food - I remember liking some dish he didn't like, but I can't remember what it is or if I dreamt it, it was really enjoyable to read about them. He definitely packed more culinary experiences in his one trip than I have so far.
Oh, and I'm really happy that he likes Fukuoka! To quote the book:
Of all the places we visited in Japan, this was the one we could most see ourselves returning to live in. Small enough to be manageable, but large enough to be interesting, Fukuoka also has a special atmosphere - relaxed, welcoming, fun loving and unpretentious. Throw in a great climate, excellent shops, museums and music venues and a buzzing nightlife district and you have everything you could ever wish for in a city.
Maybe the Fukuoka tourist board should use this quote. I actually think it's very very accurate, and it explains why a lot of students from Fukuoka don't actually want to leave the place when they're looking for a job.
Overall, I would totally recommend this book if you're looking for a light read on Japanese cuisine. Just don't read it on an empty stomach.