Offline for a Trans-Pacific Cruise, & Books about Japan

books about japan

I am about to do something unprecedented: disappear from the Internet for the rest of the month of September. In my quest to explore the world, one of the trips I have never done is a repositioning trip, and I will be taking a ship across the Pacific, docking in Japan come the end of the month.

What this means is that I will have little to no Internet access, as it is available on the ship but at an astronomical price. I’ll be taking a Celebrity cruise that needs to reposition to Asia – and no, this is not a sponsored trip. Friends and I booked it via Cruise Sheet just like the rest of the world would do, ending up with a very reasonable price for an 18+ day expedition halfway across the world.

There will be stops in Eastern Russia and in Japan before the ship spits us out in Tokyo.

From there, I’ll be taking a G Adventures trip through Japan (link is to the itinerary). Since I was speaking at a conference on my birthday, I was unable to climb my annual Birthday Mountain – so Mount Fuji will be a belated birthday gift to myself.  The trip is a whirlwind, focusing on the highlights the country has to offer. Within the structure of the tour, I will, of course, be focusing on food.

I will admit that I am quite worried about the food, since much of what’s available in Japan has wheat in it. Even sushi basics often have wheat protein to bind materials together, let alone the copious use of soy sauce (which has wheat), wheat noodles, and flour. I am arming myself with some posts, which I have shared below, as well as a Gluten-Free card in Japanese.

Mt Fuji Japan by Uncornered Market
Dan & Audrey from Uncornered Market’s Fuji photo from their Japan Trip

As with last fall’s trip to India with my mum, I wanted to put together a pre-trip reading list for Japan. (The India reading list is here).

Books about Japan that I’ve Read and Enjoyed

Number9Dream David Mitchell           

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden 

South of the Border, West of the Sunand Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami

Samurai William The Englishman Who Opened the East, Giles Milton 

Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, Victoria Abbott Riccardi

The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, Alan Booth

Shogun, James Clavell 

Books about Japan Recommended by Readers

Via my Facebook page, l asked you what you would recommend for a pre-Japan reading list. Thank you for the suggestions!

Hokkaido Highway Blues Will Ferguson

Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West T.R. Reid  

Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know about Cooking Michael Booth

Dogra Magra Yumeno Kyûsaku (Author), Patrick Honnoré (Translator to French) 

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (Kindle Edition) Gail Tsukiyama

The Sound of Waves Yukio Mishima (Author), Meredith Weatherby (Translator)

Speed Tribes Karl Taro Greenfeld

Kitchen (A Black cat book) Banana Yoshimoto (Author), Megan Backus (Translator)

A Tale for the Time Being Ruth Ozeki

General Posts about Japan or Toyko

Japan and How I Failed to Figure it Out Wait but Why

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Japan for Food Lovers Migrationology

Japanese Food, from Tempura to Takoyaki Uncornered Market 

Ghosts of the Tsunami Richard Lloyd Parry (Note: one of the most sad and beautiful pieces I’ve read, other than The Man who Sailed his House, also  from post-tsunami Japan)

How Japan Stood up to Old Age Financial Times

Tokyo Cheapo’s Summary Page for Tokyo Tokyo Cheapo 

Where to Eat in Kyoto Follow me Foodie

Food in Tokyo Piglets of the World

Eating in Takayama Jo the Tart Queen

Guide to the Food of Kanazawa (PDF) Japan Tourist Board

Gluten Free Eats, Japan

Please see my long gluten free Japan guide here.


 * * *

If you have additional suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

At the moment I’m at my family’s place, frantically trying to get through the 55 things I need to finish before I hop a flight to the west coast and get on the ship. I’ve been excited for this for quite some time, both to get as much writing and reading done as possible, and because a Trans-Pacific trip is definitely an unusual way for me to get back to Asia, and I look forward to what it will entail.

I will be posting an Instagram or two along the way when obtaining Internet, and there might be one scheduled post here on the site midway through the trip.

But for the most part: you’ll hear from me in October. WEE!


I hope everyone has a great month!


p.s. a reminder that there are 3 more days to pick up your hand-drawn typographic food map of Thailand.

54 thoughts on “Offline for a Trans-Pacific Cruise, & Books about Japan”

  1. Sounds exciting! I haven’t tried any cruise trip yet an it would be fun to go to another side of the world via boat.

    I went to Japan last June to visit my best friend. Enjoy your trip! :D

    1. What I meant was that it’s not Celebrity Cruises who are sending me, it’s a bunch of friends who are travelling together for the funsies. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary, but since many travel bloggers do take sponsored travel, and my Japan trip is under my G Adventures contract, I wanted to clarify that this part of it was not :)

      EDIT: yes, I hadn’t seen the typo. HA

      Yes, I’ll be posting photos after the boat trip, as well as a writeup, for sure!

      1. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I read it over and over, thinking it impossible that Jodi could make a typo that would be so much fun to point out. ;)

        Some day I’d like to take an ocean cruise too. But for now it’s those loooooong flights instead.

          1. I’m sure you’re goin’ a mile a minute! I’m working on my own to do list to get back to Thailand again in late October. Then the serious fun will begin.

  2. I’ve always wanted to take a repositioning cruise, so I look forward to reading about your experience! I’m also excited to read about your meals in Japan!

  3. Hi Jodi, Thanks for linking my post on your site. I really appreciate it. I spent four years living in Japan and had to learn how to eat gluten free there without any labels indicating what was gluten free or not. It’s not very easy because gluten is in so many things. I have updated my site recently to include a few links that might be helpful. Have a wonderful trip to Japan. I love the country so much and I hope you have a great time.

  4. Does the ship dock in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia? I went there in 2003 and it was…interesting. There were some great volcano hikes, fishing and sketcky casinos on the peninsula.

  5. Wow, I had no idea about repositioning boats! A very interesting way to get to Japan, I’m looking forward to hearing about how the journey over goes. Also, super excited that you’re going to Japan – totally my favorite country!! I traveled all over and loved everything about it. Sorry I missed the FB post, but a book I liked about Japan was ‘A Year in Search of Wa’ by Karin Mueller. Enjoy being unplugged for a bit :)

  6. The imperial family lineage is 1600 years old. Still can’t fathom how come a civilization, let alone a ruling family, can survive that long. Great holiday pick, I really loved Japan.

    That said, you’ll have to do a lot to win back a sensible carbon foot print, considering how polluting cruises really are, not even speaking about the heavy fuel they use. Sorry to be so blunt, but really, you’ve just used all of your carbon credits, for your entire life.

    I love your blog, but really, when you have such a large audience, you also have responsibilities.

    1. Hi Alex, I do have responsibilities and I abide by them, but those responsibilities do not include mitigating against the potential consequences of every thing that I do. I am honest with my readers, I research before I speak or do, I try to be as deferent and honourable to local culture as I can, and many other things. I respect that this is a cause you believe in, and one of your big ticket items, but it’s not one of mine. Yes, cruises are not the most environmentally sensitive manner of transportation, I agree. However, I can’t please everyone, and if this is something that causes you to stop reading my site, then I also respect that choice.

      1. Variable responsibilities are not responsibilities. That’s called interest. You’re being honest, no doubt about it, that’s why you’re honestly making a mistake. Finally there are grades in life, everything belongs to a context, that’s why decide to act, or to not act.

        Why should we take lightly, the 2 tons of fresh water that will be carried for you over thousand miles, the food, the waste, the gray waste (toilets) that all ships are allowed to dump into the ocean as long as they are 3 miles off coast, or the hundreds of tons of fuel burnt to get your boat from point A to point B ?

        Every once in a while, the perimeter of our own, narrow interests come into full collision with much, much broader issues, that impact people lives. I’m the last generation of human, who knows what a healthy reef really is. Now, you have to go miles away, fishermen can barely survive with what was plentiful just 20 years ago. Maybe it’s easy for me to say this, after all, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So I can compare. But when you come to my age, what will be your thoughts ? What will be your responsibility ? At least, don’t worsen the situation by enticing more like you to hop aboard.

        You’d be a random individual, after all, who cares. But you’re not, your page is read by thousands. You can do what is right, or continue to look at the world through the lense of your own interests.

    2. Seriously? It’s a re-positioning trip…which means, they’re going to move that ship whether there are 12 or 1200 people on it.

      Think for a moment about the room you are in. Look around you…how much of the stuff around you, including that computer you’re typing on, traveled on a polluting ship from Southeast Asia or another continent? Most of it? All of it?

      This site is free, last time I checked. I do not believe Jodi has any responsibility to you or any other reader, especially when it’s not subscription based.

  7. Have a very good visit, as we know you shall. I don’t know if you got the link on the outbreak of Dengue fever but Please be sure to include mosquito repellent. And most certainly in Tokyo. It would appear that the tropical disease and it’s carrier have re-surfaced in the country that has not seen it in 70 years. From what I have read it is not something you want to get twice!. The weather has been extremely warm with lot’s of moisture to precipitate an explosion of the deadly pest. They do not care if you are in one of the most wealthy countries on the planet! I hope also that you connected with Micaela Braithwaite. Despite having a large follower base she will certainly answer any questions and is very friendly and nice. Speaks fluent Japanese to boot. She knows her 2nd home well. Quite an amazing woman like yourself! Arigatou Gosaimasu! :)

  8. Jodi, doesn’t Fuji climbing close in September? You might want to climb that Russian hill Skurnie mentioned, just in case…

  9. Sounds like a dream trip! I LOVE Japan. I would recommend the book Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World by Theodore Bestor. I read it in advance to my trip to Japan to do some cultural research on the market, which is itself fascinating. It’s technically closed, but see if you can make your way into the tuna auction. It was awesome to hear the auctioneer’s sing-song call and watch the various bidders check on the quality of each fish. (And I’m vegan! Ha!)

  10. Read “The character of rain” (“Metaphysique des tubes”) of Amelie Nothomb, I don’t know how the english translation is, but you can’t miss it, trust me please.. ;)

  11. Read “The character of rain” (“Metaphysique des tubes”) of Amelie Nothomb, I don’t know how the english translation is, but you can’t miss it, trust me please.. ;) .

  12. Jodi, this is perfect! Thank you so much and I hope you enjoy your trip. Looking forward to reading about it – always good to have someone do a little field work first ;-)
    Safe transatlantic travels also!

  13. Ha, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels the need to read about a country before going. I read so many books about china before I got here and I think it helped me appreciate things more when I landed. Japan sounds so exciting! Have fun and stay away from gluten!

  14. I would be interested to find out how the cruise goes, I had friends that did a repositioning cruise recently from South America to Europe – they said they found it a bit boring but they aren’t bloggers and didn’t have writing to keep them busy. Japan is very high on my wish list and I am planning to go there on my honeymoon in a few years so also looking forward to reading about your trip

  15. Wishing you a wonderful trip Jodi, the cruise part sounds really interesting, and of course Japan is one of my absolutely favourite parts of the planet (I lived there for a couple of years). You should read every Haruki Murakami book there is because he’s incredible (though perhaps not typically Japanese). Great list of posts and books – some lovely stuff for me to read, thank you!

  16. I have never heard of a Re-positioning Cruise. Thanks for sharing, what a great find! Some of their prices are really amazing! Will definitely book mark this for future reference! Looking forward to reading about your experience on board! Enjoy!

  17. A wonderful (and well priced favourite) for reading up on Japan is Pretty Good Number One by Matthew Amster – Burton. For a great background to the Fukushima disaster and the human impact of the tsunami I would recommend Mark Willacy’s Fukushima. Finally, for a read about old traditions try Lost Japan by Alex Kerr.

    Enjoy, Japan is one of my favourite places in the world to visit.

  18. I recommend reading: “Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo” — it’s available for Kindle, and it’s a very easy, fun read. The author does a great job of capturing the highlight of Japan, namely wandering around confused and eating wonderful food. Forget ratings, reviews, famous places, etc. The thing to do in Japan is to simply duck into any neighborhood place, and order what other people are ordering. The quality of ingredients and attention to detail is unbelievable. You really have to try hard to have a meal that *isn’t* excellent.

  19. So excited you’re going to Japan! I second (third or fourth?) the recommendation for “Pretty Good Number One” for a lovely food story.

    If you are tacking on any additional time in the country, please head north to the Tohoku region! They were the area hardest hit by the tsunami and earthquake and they are still getting very few tourists, though the tourism infrastructure was not really affected. I took an unforgettable Sendai food and culture tour with the Busho-Tai “welcome squad”, which are actors dressed 17th Century samurai warriors and the feudal Lord of the region, Date Masamune. So fun, and the people in the region were very friendly and excited to meet visitors. Matsushima Bay is really gorgeous and deeply rooted the literary and artistic history of the region. Also, the Shiogama Fish Market is more local and more friendly than the popular Tsukiji market in Tokyo. They have a DIY “kaisendon” bowl stand where you can buy steamed rice (for about a dollar) topped with the sliced to order seafood you get from the fish vendors. This would be gluten free.

    I used an excellent cultural guidebook called, “Cool Japan: A Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku and Japanese Culture Past and Present”

    Have fun!

  20. Andrew Delmenhorst

    Are you excited for your technology cleanse? I did one a couple of years ago in the Amazon (no internet or cell phone coverage for 6 whole days!) Looking forward to reading the posts on your return.

  21. Sigurdur Bjorgvinsson

    Sound like you are about have a great time. I have never been on a cruise except for the one crossing from Denmark to Sweden. I am excited to hear more.

  22. I highly recommend Hector Garcia’s “A Geek in Japan”

    Don’t let the title mislead you. This is an engaging first
    look at the most fascinating (and perplexing) aspects of
    Japanese culture.

    Enjoy your blog. Have a great cruise!

  23. WOW, what a great trip! The cruise across the Pacific sounds amazing, and Japan is the next place on my list. I will be really interested to hear how you go with your food in Japan. I am on a very restricted low FODMAPS diet, which makes eating out really difficult, even in English speaking restaurants.

  24. Haven’t done a repositioning cruise yet, so I’m looking forward to hearing all about it. And the recipes and the photos, of course :) Best of luck on your journey, I hope you climb that mountain!

  25. Honestly, I’m not much enticed by the idea of cruising, but still I have thought once or twice about a repositioning cruise. Looking forward to hearing about yours. Are they less crowded the regular cruises and are there many activities to do?

    1. The capacity was the same as a regular cruise, and I am not sure about activities vs. regular ones — we specifically picked this cruise because of the many sea days as the goal was learning as much as we can from each other. There were lectures every day, many activities from all parts of the ship, etc but we didn’t really partake in many of them as we were having too much fun otherwise!

  26. I was just about to enthusiastically recommend adding Hokkaido Highway Blues (It’s also called ‘Hitching Rides with Buddha’ in some countries) by Will Ferguson to the reading list, but it looks like someone beat me to it! I lived in Japan for a year, and that book just reads like a perfect, funny, beautiful love letter to the country.

  27. I am looking forward to read about your Trans-Pacific adventures, Jodi. This journey sounds so inspiring, I truly admire you.

  28. How did the gluten free card go in Japan? I’ve lived over here for about 5 years and I’m getting married here next year, my gran is hopefully coming to the wedding and she is gluten free.

    Looking at the card, it seems like a lot of restaurants might say they can’t accommodate for a gluten free diet, was that the case or did you find a lot of places to eat?

    1. Hi Chris, it was actually quite a big problem for me, so much so that I paid a translator to translate a version I wrote in English, one that has specifics not just “I can’t eat wheat.” I found many places did not realize that their soy sauce also had wheat, and I had to ask many times. Some places were very willing to make plain versions of the soups — ie. no soy in the broth, or use base noodle broth instead of soup broth — but of course it disrupts the system and people were a bit upset sometimes.

      I’ll be writing about celiacs in Japan soon and will include the card in it, as translated.

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