Be a Geek in Japan! Book Reviews of Titles Showcasing 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
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Find out how you can be a Geek in Japan by discovering the best book titles showcasing Japan's fascinating 'Otaku' Culture

Nederlands (Dutch)

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. 

Since 1948, Tuttle Publishing 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.

From their extensive title list, I received the following works: ‘A Geek in Japan‘ by Héctor García (read about the Japan that few people see and get a culture shock – from the comforts of your own home), ‘Tokyo Geek’s Guide‘ (dive more into the ‘ground zero’ for Japan’s popular geek culture (called ‘Otaku’ there) with neighbourhood guides highlighting the most interesting hotspots), ‘Cool Tokyo Guide‘ by Abby Denson (illustrated guide to Tokyo) and ‘Tokyo Pop-Up Book‘ by Sam Ita (Tokyo in 3-D paper!).

 

Are you planning a trip to Japan? Here are some great resources to get you started:

 

COMPLETE GEEK IN JAPAN BOOK REVIEW LIST

A Geek in Japan & Tokyo Geek's Guide Review: Dive Deep in Japan's 'Otaku' Culture || The Travel Tester Book Reviews
Some titles in the ‘Geek’-series of Tuttle

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

 

Now let’s get on to the first review!

A GEEK IN JAPAN BOOK REVIEW

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

The Travel Tester - 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 - 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.” 

 

PIN FOR LATER!

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

 

The Travel Tester - The Verdict

Travel Tester Results

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.

 

The Travel Tester - Practical Information

GET THIS BOOK YOURSELF!

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 

Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes from Tuttle Publishing. All opinions are 100% my own, as always.

 


 

TOKYO GEEK’S GUIDE REVIEW

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

The Travel Tester - 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 - 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.”

 

PIN FOR LATER!

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

 

The Travel Tester - The Verdict

Travel Tester Results

Tokyo Geek’s Guide is definitely 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 book ‘A Geek in Japan’ 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!

 

The Travel Tester - Practical Information

GET THIS BOOK YOURSELF!

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

Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes from Tuttle Publishing. All opinions are 100% my own, as always.

 


 

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester
More Japan Books by Tuttle Publishing that are Comic Book-Style!

 


 

COOL TOKYO GUIDE REVIEW

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

The Travel Tester - The Anticipation

About the Writer

Abby Denson is an award-winning International Manga artist a she has worked on a variety of comics in the past years. Besides her comic books, she is also the author of the coming-out story “Tough Love: High School Confidential” and another book about the land of the rising sun: “Cool Japan Guide”. On her blog “City Sweet Tooth“, she writes about New York’s best sweets, yummy! She’s also on Instagram, although I wish she would share more of her illustrations there rather than snaps of her neighbourhood, but still fun to get a peek behind the scenes of this creative woman.

 

The Travel Tester - The Experience

The Content of the Book

In this travel-guide-meets-comic-book, characters Abby, her husband Matt, friend Yuuko and sidekick Kitty Sweet Tooth will introduce you to different aspects of travel and life in Tokyo and beyond.

Abby covers topics such as travelling to Tokyo by train, getting around the city, local food and parts of the culture that are important for visitors to know.

Besides that, she goes a bit deeper into the daily life of people living in Japan and how different that often is to us Westerners, like how they get rid of trash, how toilets work and why everyone wears a surgical mask and uses paper tissues so much.

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

Photos & Illustrations

Abby’s drawings are simple, yet detailed, but most of all they’re incredible colourful and bright, which I really like. Together with funny quotes and personal observations, this book is very easy and enjoyable to read. The illustrations really show Abby’s fun personality and makes you look at the city with almost childlike wonder. This is definitely not your average guidebook, which seems fitting for a not so average city.

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

Practical Use

While this book can’t really replace a guidebook in the way of providing in-depth tips on where to stay and what to see and do, it does give you a nice look into the possibilities and unique culture of this city.

The chapters open with helpful phrases you can learn, she gives you tips on important social behaviour you should be aware of and there are some practical lists with addresses and websites of things you shouldn’t miss.

The focus definitely lies on entertaining you, but you pick up some interesting bits of knowledge along the way and many quick tips are shared. Almost like you are visiting the city with a friend!

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester
Tips on how to behave at shrines and temples

 

Favourite Quote

“One thing I’ve picked up over my years of traveling is that you must be prepared to research, to make mistakes, and to perhaps even look foolish sometimes. It’s okay! That’s how you learn, and I’ve found the people of Japan can be very welcoming and eager to assist when they are asked for help.”

 

PIN FOR LATER!

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

The Travel Tester - The Verdict

Travel Tester Results

The Cool Tokyo Guide is a personable and entertaining guide that gives you a good overview of the amazing things the city of Tokyo has to offer you and is perfect for anyone with a visual learning style interested in the culture of Japan.

I can see the book being popular not just for adults, but teenagers and perhaps even younger kids as well. 

The Travel Tester - Practical Information

GET THIS BOOK YOURSELF!

Title: Cool Tokyo Guide
Author: Abby Denson
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4805314419
ISBN-13: 978-4805314418

Where to buy: Amazon UK // Amazon USA // Bol.com

Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes from Tuttle Publishing. All opinions are 100% my own, as always.

 


 

TOKYO POP-UP BOOK REVIEW

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

The Travel Tester - The Anticipation

About the Writer

Sam Ita studied graphic design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn before following his passion for paper engineering. His inspiration for his books come from comics, origami and the working of machines. His craft is then applied to publishing, advertising, animation, display and even toy design. He has a few pop-up books under his name, such as ‘Christmas Tree In-a-Box’, ‘The Odyssey’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Frankenstein’. He also created origami kits, which include ‘Flying Dragons Paper Airplanes’ and the ‘Next Generation Airplanes Kit’. You can find his website here.

 

The Travel Tester - The Experience

The Content of the Book

In this little book, you travel past some of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks with characters Chico (a 13-year-old boy that loves to take photos and tell stories) and his cat Neko (the Japanese word for cat). Of course, the cat goes wherever he wants and Chico has to chase him all over the city.

This book is a combination of a short story that shares the cultural highlights of Tokyo and some incredible paper engineering that will make you flip through the pages with wonder.

In the book you get introduced to the ancient Buddhist Asakusa Temple (from my favourite neighbourhood of the city, so I’m happy about that!), the shopping district above Akihabara Station, a Sumo wrestling match, a train in Shinjuku Station, The Tokyo Skytree Tower and an onsen (hot spring) at the bottom of iconic Mt. Fuji.

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

Photos & Illustrations

Who doesn’t like a good pop-up book? I remember as a kid that I was always fascinated with the way these kind of books were created, so if I would have been given the Tokyo Pop-Up Book as a kid, I would have been well pleased.

While the comics accompanying the pop-ups aren’t really my personal taste (I like reading a story from top to bottom, I just don’t enjoy reading from speech balloons that much, it always confuses me, but I can see how 8-12 year old kids would love this), the fold-out works of art (because that’s really what they are) are incredible. There is so much detail in the pop-ups and I found it great to see such creative representations of the buildings I’ve seen so many times on my own travels to Japan!

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester
some parts you can even fold-out double ^

 

Practical Use

This book is definitely more for entertainment purposes than to act as a proper travel guide. While you go past the different highlights of the city, the paper pop-outs are the star of the show and the story is more about the characters than an in-depth insight into the city and the sights itself. I can definitely see how this book can interest kids to learn more about Tokyo and the rest of Japan after flipping through this book though!

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

PIN FOR LATER!

Cool Tokyo Guide & Tokyo Pop-Up Book Review || The Travel Tester

 

The Travel Tester - The Verdict

Travel Tester Results

Pop-Up Tokyo is also a fun way of introducing children to the uniqueness of Tokyo and the interactive and detailed pop-ups are simply mesmerizing, even as an adult. Both books are a creative approach to your standard travel guide, which I can only applaud!

 

The Travel Tester - Practical Information

GET THIS BOOK YOURSELF!

Title: Tokyo Pop-Up Book
Author: Sam Ita
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 4805314346
ISBN-13: 978-4805314340

Where to buy: Amazon UK // Amazon USA // Bol.com

Disclaimer: I received this book for review purposes from Tuttle Publishing. All opinions are 100% my own, as always.

 


 

The Travel Tester - Further Reading

JAPAN TRIP PLANNING HELP

Everything you need to plan your Japan Trip is right here: 

 

Looking to visit Japan as an independent traveller, but need a bit of help?

  • Meet ViaHero! This company assists your trip planning by pairing you with a local. This way, you have the opportunity to talk to someone who really knows the area well so you will get the absolute most out of your experience. They will give you ideas for authentic experiences, insider knowledge and even phone support if you need it. Start building your own customized independent trip to Japan here. Readers of The Travel Tester get 5% off the ViaHero planning service by using this link!
  • Looking to go bar hopping in Tokyo? Then check out Magical Trip for the best guided food tours in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Asakusa, as well as tours is Osaka & Kyoto.
  • For fun things to do in Japan, we also recommend to check Get Your Guide for a variety of tours & activities. 

 

Make sure to also read our other Japan book reviews:

At Home in Japan & Etiquette Guide to Japan Book Review: Get to Know the Real Japan || The Travel Tester    At Home in Japan & Etiquette Guide to Japan Book Review: Get to Know the Real Japan || The Travel Tester    A Guide to Traditions, Customs and Etiquette of Japan Book Review || The Travel Tester || #Japan #JapanBook #Book #BookReview #Traditions #Customs #Etiquette #JapanCulture #Tuttle               

Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto & Japanese Inns and Hot Springs Book Review || The Travel Tester    Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto & Japanese Inns and Hot Springs Book Review || The Travel Tester    Japan Traveler's Companion Book Review: A Complete Overview of Japan's Highlights || The Travel Tester    The Little Book of Tokyo and The Little Book of Kyoto Book Review || The Travel Tester               

 

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