On 31 May at a ceremony in Tokyo, the newly-established Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food from the Ministry of Agriculture was presented to Ms Shirley Booth, food writer and specialist in Japanese cuisine, by Mr Shoichi Nakagawa, Minister of Agriculture, in recognition of her contribution to promoting awareness of Japanese cuisine abroad.
Ms Booth first visited Japan in 1977. For almost thirty years she has divided her time between Tokyo and London, always working tirelessly to introduce and explain Japanese cuisine to the West by producing television documentaries, conducting demonstrations and writing.
After learning how to prepare Shojin ryori (traditional vegetarian cuisine) at a temple in Koganei, Tokyo, Ms Booth then gave lessons in Shojin ryori to both Japanese and foreigners. In 1987 she produced a television documentary, Japan: Food for the Spirit , exploring the relationship between food and nature in traditional Japanese cuisine. First broadcast on Channel Four in the UK and subsequently sold throughout the world, the documentary was awarded a Jury Special Prize at the 31 st Uni Japan Film Competition on Films and Videos in Japan.
More documentaries followed, including The Silent Invasion , a co-production with NHK (equivalent to BBC) and Pacifica Films (Booth's own company with Christine Booth), which was broadcast in Japan, re-titled Japanese Food as Number One . It shows how the Japanese diet has changed since the war, leading to an increase in western-style degenerative disease, and how, in America, Japanese cuisine is gaining popularity among the health-conscious.
In 2000, Ms. Booth's book, Food of Japan , was published by Grub Street. Helping foreigners to understand the background to Japanese cuisine and the philosophy behind it, as well as offering clear instructions on how to prepare it, the book was shortlisted for the prestigious Jeremy Round Award and the World Cookbook Awards. In 2004, Ms Booth was invited to edit, and wrote the foreword to, the English version of Harumi's Japanese Cooking (publisher: Conran Octopus) by Harumi Kurihara, the Japanese celebrity chef.
Ms Booth continues to write about and teach Japanese cuisine and has further projects planned, including an instructional DVD on Japanese cuisine, a TV series, a revised and updated edition of Food of Japan , and other books on Japanese food, sake and ceramics. She is also now helping to promote Japanese sake in the UK. Her ultimate dream is to set up a Japanese Cooking Academy in the UK.
For further information please visit her website: www.shirleybooth.co.uk