Tokyo in the summer feels like a C-VAP oven.* The apartment Amster-Burtons rented was barely larger than a walk-in closet in a suburban home. Sounds like a vacation from hell, doesn't it? But it wasn't. It was delicious, relaxing, and fun. Before I went to Tokyo myself, I'd find this hard to believe, but Tokyo is a sweet and gentle giant. As Laurie observed, it's not a beautiful city, but it's filled with beautiful things.
The beautiful things that interest Matthew the most are edible, and that's what his book is about. But instead of focusing on high art of Japanese cuisines -- ceremonious kaiseki or glamorous sushi --Matthew focuses on the pop art -- fast food, chain restaurants, and convenience stores. If you've never been to Japan, you might turn your nose up at Matthew's "plebeian" attitude to food. But I wish I was armed with Matthew's book when I went to Tokyo instead of the Michelin Guide. The 2 Michelin starred places were a disappointment and cost more than all my other meals combined. Pretty Good Number One made me re-live the 7/11 culture shock (I'd challenge Thomas Keller to cook a better hard boiled egg than Tokyo 7/11); my favorite meal at an izakaya (it was a chain); melt in your mouth beef; a heart warming bowl of ramen; better French pastries than France herself could produce; and yes, the best toilets in the world.
When people set sails for far away places, they make a checklist of things they must see there. Eiffel tower: check. Trevi Fountain: check. The travel writers encourage that by giving you "Top 10 sites" and telling you what you must squeeze in if you are only in that city for 3 days. Matthew does just the opposite, and oh, what a breath of fresh air it is in travel writing. He invites you to experience Tokyo, not put another check mark in your travel itinerary. The only chapter missing was "How to entertain your kids on the plane and deal with jet lag."
* C-VAP ovens offer convection functionality with steam and are used in many upscale restaurants instead of the sous-vide method.