Just back from two weeks in Japan and many hours in the markets. Captivated by all of the ingredients, as well as uses for items that I am familiar with- such as miso.
Could someone suggest a book/s that gives a good overview of Japanese foods- less interested in recipes and more interested in an understanding of the cuisine.. Thanks!
Take a look at Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji. Of what's available in print in English, I think it fits your interest the best. There are other good books, too, but I think this one has the broadest coverage.
If you're really interested in miso specifically, there's a great book on it by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, but I don't know if it's still in print.
You might also like the Dictionary of Japanese Food by Richard Hosking, but it's just that - there's no extensive discussion, just brief descriptions of ingredients, categories of foods and techniques. It's a convenient little book for filling in details at a glance, but that's about it.