Branded the "ultimate guide to Japan's otaku culture", Gianni Simone covers Tokyo through the geeky kaleidoscope of manga, anime, gaming, cosplay, and idols. If this isn't exactly why you have come to Tokyo this guide will not be your first choice. If, on the other hand, you share the slightest interest in the nerdier aspects of Japanese culture this will be your constant companion when exploring Tokyo.
Gianni Simone is a correspondent for Vogue Italia, a regular contributor to the Japan Times and other magazines, and a Japan resident of almost two and a half decades. A self-declared geek, Mr Simone starts out by expanding on how the Japanese term otaku has changed since it was coined in the early 1980s, when it was usually used to refer to dorky male fans of anime and manga. Gone are the days when they were seen as nerdy losers; foreign fans in particular never had any qualms about defining themselves as otaku. Nowadays, the words otaku, anime, and manga have entered most dictionaries and are celebrated in regular fan conventions all over the world.
The introductory chapters of the book shed light on the more notorious manifestations of otaku culture: "Godzilla's Tokyo" on how to explore the giant dinosaur's most famous Tokyo stomping grounds; the "Wonderful World of Manga" on the ubiquity of Japanese comics in daily life, from mere decoration on public transportation to textbooks on scientific, political or historic topics and its likely origins in ukiyo-e (traditional Japanese woodblock prints); the "Home of Japanese Anime" on the rise of Japanese animation in the 1960s and its gradual decline due to a shrinking fan base in Japan and new forms of entertainment; as well as Tokyo's role as a "Video Gamers' Paradise", an "Alternate Toy Universe" and a centre of "Cosplay" and "Idol Mania".
The actual city guide is divided into the major districts of Tokyo and features short descriptions, historical summaries as well as meticulous listings of must-visit hot spots, eateries, shops (all with addresses, reviews, and opening hours), maps, and events you shouldn't miss. It covers the following areas:
- Akihabara and Jimbosho
- Harajuku, Shibuya and Shimo-Kitazawa
- Shinjuku, Nakano and West Tokyo (Koenji, Asagaya, Kichijoji)
- Roppongi and Odaiba
- Other Otaku Hot Spots (Shimbashi, Ueno, Okachimachi, etc.)
The illustrations throughout the book are rich, colourful and bright; and probably worthy of their own photo-book. Each chapter is well-written, painstakingly researched, and though sometimes obsessive in accuracy never overburdening to the reader. All in all, "Tokyo Geek's Guide" is a highly recommended primer on Japanese subculture, not only to foreign otaku travelling to Japan, but also to to those who would like to learn more about Japan's geeky underbelly; yes, even to those ex-pat residents who thought they'd seen it all...
Front and back cover
Sample page on Harajuku
Intro on Ikebukuro