Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara

Posted 22 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Books, Entertainment, Gaming, Only in Japan, Shopping in Japan, Technology, Tokyo, Travel

Having lived in Tokyo for over five years I should really know all there is to know about the place. But I don’t, and the place I probably know the least about is Akihabara. This once shabby district, which is five minutes from Tokyo station, has a global reputation for being the ultimate otaku paradise. While on the campaign trail former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso, a self-confessed manga geek, famously said ‘Tadaima!’ (‘I’m home!’) upon arriving in the area.

Akiba, as it’s also known, has become something of a tourist hotspot in recent years. A number of travel agents now offer guided tours that take in the delights of maid cafes, anime stores, used computer game markets and monster tentacle porn tryouts (probably). If, however, the thought of a tour bus full of other people (bleurgh!) is too much for you, White Rabbit Press’s Tokyo Realtime series might be right up your street.

Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara consists of a CD, a map and a glossy little photo booklet. The CD contains an audio tour of Akihabara. To start the tour, find your way to the starting point on the map, hit “play” on your iPod/iPhone/iWhatever and away you go.

Bonus points are awarded for the map: it’s plastic, so you don’t have to worry about it disintegrating into a soggy mess on rainy days.

The audio tour includes interviews with well-known otaku, such as Danny Choo (also known as the Tokyo Stormtrooper) and Morikawa Kaichiro. Morikawa, an expert on Akihabara, is a professor at Meiji University and the author of several books, including “Learning from Akihabara”.

At the time of writing I have yet to properly put the guide through its paces, but as I’ve got some time off work next week I might cast my inhibitions aside, don my tourist hat, string a camera round my neck and get stuck in.

You can buy Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara here. Tokyo Realtime: Kabukicho is also available, though unfortunately it doesn’t contain any interviews with Nigerian bouncers, Russian hostesses or love-hotel owners. It does, however, have an interview with a rope-bondage artist.

Tokyo Realtime: Behind the scenes audio tours

A Gaijin’s Guide to Japan

Posted 19 May 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Books, Entertainment, News, Tokyo

For many English-speaking folks looking to spend a few years in Japan two of the most popular routes are the JET programme and the eikaiwa. Both offer sprightly young university graduates the opportunity to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, learn a new language and get wasted on a regular basis. You could also put your mind to writing a book about Japan an’ that, which is exactly what Ben Stevens did and, look, here it is:


Rather than go for your chapter-by-chapter insight into various aspects of life in Japan, Ben’s opted for an A-to-Z of some of the more intriguing customs, people, places and things that westerners may have heard of, such as fugu, salarymen, the yakuza, and even the phenomenon that is/was Cameron Diaz (although I have to admit her shiny gob has been conspicuously absent from Softbank adverts recently).

For the entry on chikan we have a wonderful quote from economic pundit Kazuhide Uekusa, who was accused of molesting a schoolgirl on a train in 2006:

“My hand touched the student when the train rattled and I may have been misunderstood.”

Misunderstood indeed! What did he intend her to “understand”, exactly?

Anyway, A Gaijin’s Guide to Japan is a lively, entertaining read that remains good-natured when explaining obvious targets of frustration for the “The Problem With Japan Is…” crowd. You can get your mitts on it via Amazon or your local high street bookshop. Retail price: £7.99.