Books & Literature

Book Review: The Kamogawa Food Detectives, by Hisashi Kashiwai

MYSTERY: The Kamogawa Food Detectives, translated from Japanese by Jesse Kirkwood, is the first book in the bestselling, mouth-watering Japanese sleuthing series for fans of Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

Charmingly predictable — a comforting read.

Feature image credit: Pan Macmillan Australia

Hisashi Kashiwai, a long-time resident of Kyoto, is known for his town-themed essays and advisory work in television programs. Despite being a dentist by profession, his talent as an author is widely recognised. His book, The Kamogawa Food Detectives, the first in a new series, is now available in English, with translation by Jesse Kirkwood.

Each story is about a type of food, or more specifically a dish whose flavour wants to be recaptured by the client. There are six short stories in total. The central characters are father and daughter, Nagare and Koishi Kamogawa, whose work at the Kamogawa Diner includes a side hustle of uncovering the ingredients of a meal and reinventing it for each client. The recreation of the symbolic meal in the client’s life is for them related to a significant event or significant other. This is drawn out by Nagare, who always seeks to also uncover the underlying story behind the client’s desire for the food. He feels it is a healing process.

Daughter Koishi handles the client interrogations, while Nagare, drawing upon his previous occupation, conducts subsequent investigative work. Through the dialogues in these conversations, readers are exposed to diverse aspects of Japanese cuisines, ingredients, and the hierarchical nature ingrained within Japanese society. This includes themes such as respect towards elders, the authoritative role of elders, and the societal expectations placed upon individuals based on their roles within society.

The narrative also introduces various locations in Japan, shedding light on cultural nuances such as traditional gestures like bowing and the pervasive quality of humility. Although subtly conveyed through exchanges and descriptive text, this serves as an engaging and informative means for the reader to learn embedded societal values. It therefore makes it useful for anyone who plans to travel to Japan.

Travel aside, this book would suit most audiences. Although the stories cover emotional topics such as regret, miscommunication, missed love opportunities, and grief, they are only ever so delicately imbued into the text. It is not emotionally heavy; rather it is a quaint and satisfying read.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: October 2023
RRP: $34.99 (hardback)

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