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Travel Book Tokyo: Capital of Cool

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Tokyo is a complex city to get a handle on. I've personally only spent a matter of weeks there, and I didn't even scratch the surface of it. It's a world-class destination, and for Westerners, in particular, it has a magic aura. Talking to friends at home in Canada, I've been told so many times, "I'd love to go to Tokyo." From that point of view, I can see the general appeal of a book like this. Author Rob Goss has done his research and uses his knowledge of the city to give it a high-quality introduction.

One of the difficulties of a book like this is that many of us have seen a documentary or travelogue show about Tokyo or have something like the Lonely Planet guide. They all tend to cover a lot of the same territory. So, while there is fresh content in this book (the Mikimoto Ginza building didn't exist last time I was there, the book is up to date as of 2015), for me, there was a certain familiarity with much of it. Goss shows traditional activities, such as hanami parties and contemporary phenomena, like cosplay, all standard for a guide to Tokyo. Goss isn't bringing much personal to it; there is no use of "I" in the book. It's very professionally written, but it doesn't have much to set it apart from other media tackling this subject because it is just an assemblage of information. At the same time, those Lonely Planet cultural introduction sections are my favourite parts of that guidebook series. This is a solid substitute for that and is also more attractive.

The book is a small, square-shaped hardcover with beautiful glossy paper and a clean, professional, contemporary design. It's image-heavy. I'd estimate about 60% graphics (photos and maps), making it easy to understand the text even if unfamiliar with the subject. I quickly noticed the quality of the photography; it has a lot of beautiful images, and I was hoping Goss was a photographer. Looking at the credits, though, it's all stock photography, meaning all the photos from the book are available on the Internet. Goss has assembled them into a lovely package, but again, this takes away from the book's uniqueness. One other note about the images: the book has a certain male point of view. If there are people at a crosswalk, the girl in short shorts is front and centre. If there is a club pic, the girls are in the centre, a guy off to the side. The cute girl to handsome guy ratio is at least five to one, if not more. Tokyo is loaded with attractive, fashionable women, but I think many readers would also like to see some of the cutting edge men's styles. That said, most of the pictures in the book are of buildings, food, scenery or crowd shots, so it's not an overwhelming thing. It's just something I noticed around the "world's trendiest city" chapter, which was four pages of attractive women (and some guys taking photos of a beautiful woman).

The question is, would I recommend this for someone interested in Tokyo, particularly someone who's never been there? Yes, I would. The book contains a great introduction to the city, the culture, and the neighbourhoods that appeal to travellers (Roppongi, Shibuya, Ueno and so on). It also has a final section on the surrounding areas, like Hakone and Yokohama. It is professionally if impersonally, written, but that seems par for the course in these sorts of books, unfortunately. And it looks great. The production quality is impeccable, which is essential in a graphics-heavy book like this, and even if the photography isn't original, they've borrowed from great sources. Pretty much every page looks and feels good. A book like this would whet the appetite of anyone with a curiosity about Tokyo but has never visited, and maybe even some who have.

Japan Reference (JREF) has a lot of people who use the site as an introduction to Japan, and they are exactly the audience who would appreciate a short, contained introduction to the city like this.
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Item information

Category
Travel
Added by
nahadef
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2,990
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Additional information

Author
Rob Goss
Publisher
Tuttle Publishing
Year of publication
16th June 2015
Number of pages
120
Price
13.27 USD
ISBN
9784805313176
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