A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek’s Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan’s ‘Otaku’ Culture

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews
The Travel Tester reviews "A Geek in Japan" by Héctor García and "Tokyo Geek's Guide" by Gianni Simone.

I have never travelled to a country that looks so Western, yet is so completely foreign in every way possible. Japan truly has its own personality and I can only imagine how difficult it must be to adjust to daily life here. I have visited Tokyo 6 times now and I still am amazed by what I see every time I go here. I would love to spend a couple of months living here!

Luckily, there are some people who have dared to make the leap already and they documented their experiences of this fascinating world for us to enjoy. In ‘A Geek in Japan’, you can read about the Japan that few people see and get a culture shock – from the comforts of your own home. And in the recently published ‘Tokyo Geek’s Guide’, we dive more into the ‘ground zero’ for Japan’s popular geek culture (called ‘Otaku’ there) with neighbourhood guides highlighting the most interesting hotspots.

I approached Tuttle Publishing to review these two books, as I think they would be a great resource for anyone visiting Japan and trying to make sense of it all. Since 1948, Tuttle has been a leader in publishing books on the culture, arts, cuisines, languages and literature of Asia, so if there is one place to start your research, it’s with them.

We’ll start this review by looking at the book ‘A Geek in Japan’ and then move on to the ‘Tokyo Geek’s Guide’. Let’s do it!

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

A Geek in Japan Book Review

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark The Anticipation

About the Writer

Spanish Héctor García is a software engineer who moved to Japan in 2004. With a love for all things odd and geeky, he started blogging at www.kirainet.com (English version at www.ageekinjapan.com).

Living, working and studying in Japan has helped Héctor to gradually understand the country and its people, and he opens us up to the generally reserved Japanese and lets us peek into their ‘universe’.

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark The Experience

The Content of the Book

In A Geek in Japan, the author tries to sort out the keys to Japanese culture and society, the way of life of its inhabitants, their business culture and its influence on the rest of the world. Not an easy task to do in just a couple of pages, because Japanese culture is very complex!

Chapters in this book also include the origins of Japanese culture, traditional arts and disciplines, the world of manga and anime, modern Japanese music, movies and television and information about visiting Tokyo and travelling to the rest of Japan.

What I really like about this book, is how it starts out with a short, but very comprehensive history of Japan. The author covers Japan’s early legends from the old ‘Edo’ era, explains the complexity and heritage of the Japanese language and teaches us about the unique ‘Bushido Code’, which is the samurai/warriors way of life, ethics and rules that over the years spread to all branches of society and even today affects the way the Japanese think.

But that’s not it. We’re also getting a peek into the mystical world of Geisha’s, religion and philosophy of this fascinating country.

If you don’t know much about the history of Japan, this book provides you with a great base to understand a bit how from these ancient beliefs and traditions, modern-day Japan has grown to have such a unique character. But even if you already knew quite a bit of Japanese culture, you’ll sure be surprised by many little nuggets that you probably didn’t know!

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Photos & Illustrations

With 160 pages at almost A4 paper-size, this book brings you a very thorough compilation of Japanese society. The book has a soft cover and it’s filled with bright coloured prints and photos that support the different objects, people and concepts discussed in the book.

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Practical Use

You can read the book from start to finish, which is probably best if you want the full, chronological overview. But this book is also very easy to flip through and just pick out individual topics that you want to know more about.

While the book is a bit too big to bring along on your travels, it’s a great reference guide to get a bit more background information on all the quirky things you will inevitably come across during your stay.

I was already very familiar with large parts of Japanese history and culture, yet there were so many things in this book that I didn’t know about yet! For example, I found it interesting to read about all the different elements and rituals at the Japanese shrines and temples and all the social concepts that we don’t know in the West. So interesting!

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Favourite Quotes

“Traveling to Japan is like being transported a few years into the future.”

“Pay attention when you travel to Japan. You may come upon a surprise around any corner: a little pile of salt, a fountain with ladles, or even a small ofuro with warm water to relax your feet after a long walk.”

“Manga foster the values of friendship, perseverance and achievement, values that originated in bushido and helped Japan quickly and successfully emerge from the postwar recession.”

“Generally speaking, traveling around Japan is easier than traveling around Europe. Everything is usually perfectly organized, so it’s very difficult to get lost.” 

 


 

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

Tokyo Geek’s Guide Review

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark The Anticipation

About the Writer

Gianni Simone is the Japan correspondent for Vogue Italia and a regular contributor to The Japan Times. His writings have also appeared on Flash Art and CNN Travel websites and in Zoom Japon and San Francisco Arts Quarterly magazines.

Simone has lived in Japan for almost 25 years and he resides in Yokohama with his wife and two sons.

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark The Experience

The Content of the Book

‘Tokyo Geek’s Guide’ is a great addition to ‘A Geek in Japan’. This book focuses on made-in-Japan goods and the world of Japanese comics and animation. Right from the start, it dives right into everything otaku and takes you past the best places for eateries, nightlife, trading cards, manga, anime, video games, toys, cosplay, cafes, museums, libraries, fairs, festival and events in Tokyo.

Covering 11 of Tokyo’s neighbourhoods (Akihabara, Jimbocho, Harajuku, Shibuya, Shimo-Kitazawa, Shinjuku, Nakano, West-Tokyo, Ikebukuro, Roppongi and Odaiba), the author has compiled extensive guide to the best places for geeks travelling to the city.

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Photos & Illustrations

Similar to A Geek in Japan, this book about Tokyo also has a soft cover and is about A4-sized. The book counts 144 pages. The photos and prints in this book are bright and colourful and small maps point out the best places around Tokyo.

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Practical Use

Again, this is not a book you’d bring on your travels, but if there would be a pocket-sized version, or a downloadable PDF, it would be a great resource for on the road.

If you’d like to visit some of the hotspots mentioned in this book, you’d have to take a snapshot of the pages with your phone, or keep notes of the addresses in a travel diary, which can be quite some work if you’re a true otaku.

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

Favourite Quotes

“If being an Otaku means dreaming up alternative worlds, then toys embody and are the concrete, three-dimensional representation of those dreams and our deepest desires. The Japanese have been among the first to recognize that far from being considered a childish activity, playing with and collecting toys is a legitimate activity that -like manga and anime- appeal to many grown-ups”

“Tokyo is a city of specialized neighborhoods, each one devoted to a particular trade (musical instruments in Ochanomizu, kitchen utensils in Kappabashi, textiles in Nippori, etc.)”

“Tokyo is famous for its many theme bars and restaurants, and maid, butler and ‘danso’ cafes are a popular form of otaku entertainment dining. On one side, they are a typical example of how the Japanese manage to think out of the box and come up with seemingly outlandish but ultimately successful enterprises. On the other side, they not only cater to the Japanese love for uniforms but follow in the long local tradition of customer service.

“You can’t really say you have fully experiences otaku culture until you have made a pilgrimage to the holy land of manga and anime – Tokyo.”

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark The Verdict
A Geek in Japan provides a great basis of understanding the Japanese culture from its past all the way to modern times. If you have a general interest in Japan and would like to understand a bit more about all the people, objects and cultural differences while you travel, this is a great resource guide. Even if you’re not a true geek, this book might teach you a thing or two about the complex world of Japanese (pop) culture.

Tokyo Geek’s Guide on the other hand, is much more a book for the true otaku out there. It doesn’t cover so much the culture and history of Japan, but dives deep into the (modern) geek culture that the country is known for. If you’re not a huge fan of anime, manga, gaming and these type of things, but you just want a bit of an overview of them, then the other book is probably more suited for you. If, however, you’re travelling to Tokyo especially for this geeky stuff, then this book will give you a wonderful overview of places you shouldn’t miss. Because of the fast changing world of shops and restaurants, I would recommend to always check if a place mentioned in this book is still open!

Together, these books provide a great insight into Japanese moedern culture and will definitely help you understand a lot more of the weird and wonderful things you will encouter on your visit to Tokyo and the rest of Japan. I believe that when you’ve read these books, you will appreciate your travels a whole lot more!

 

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

More titles in the ‘Geek’-series of Tuttle

 

The Travel Tester - Bookmark Time for Action

The Travel Tester - Bookmark Practical
Title: A Geek in Japan
Author: Héctor García
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing / Tuttle Shokai Inc
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4805311290
ISBN-13: 978-4805311295

Where to buy: Amazon UK or Amazon USA // Bol.com (English)

 

Title: Tokyo Geek’s Guide
Author: Gianni Simone
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing / Tuttle Shokai Inc
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4805313854
ISBN-13: 978-4805313855

Where to buyAmazon UK or Amazon USA // Bol.com (English)

 

PIN IT FOR LATER!

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews

 

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews   A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews
Disclaimer: I received both these books for review purposes from Tuttle Publishing all opinions are 100% my own, as always.

 

Tags from the story
Written By
More from Nienke Krook Read More

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge