A Westerners' Look at Tokyo & Japan


Disclosure: I was sent copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

With the Tokyo Olympics still going on I thought this week I would share two books that have Westerner authors who have chosen lives in Japan. They share their experiences in their books. Both of these books are written for adults and definitely have some adult overtones to them. The first book is manga or a graphic novel. It is written by a French born author. It is Tokyo Love Story by Julie Blanchin Fujita and is bilingual in both English and Japanese. 

From the Publisher:

A funny and intimate travelogue of one woman's unexpected adventures in Japan.

French illustrator Julie Blanchin-Fujita arrived in Tokyo for what she thought would be a one-year stint, and ended up never leaving. In this graphic novel-style memoir she shares her love of Japan, while depicting personal experiences and stories from her life in Tokyo—from the exotic (sumo wrestlers, ramen, hot springs, tatami mats, bentos, Japanese trains, Mount Fuji, earthquakes) to the everyday (hanging out with friends, moving houses, falling in love).

Her voyage of discovery in the world's most exciting city will appeal to a broad range of readers—from those contemplating a trip to Tokyo and Japanophiles to fans of graphic novels and anyone who enjoys a good manga love story. Packed with keen cultural observations, this enchanting story is told in both English and Japanese—also making it a great language learning resource.

From Me:

This manga memoir is funny and shares so much of the culture and life in Tokyo. Julie shares her own experiences, emotions and more from arriving in Japan including why she goes there to falling in love in Tokyo. Her journey takes her through five different living places in Tokyo and she shares each with the reader. I love the details of the homes she shares from the bugs to the ofuro, Japanese bath. Throughout the book she gives details as to how things work in Japan and introduces the reader to the Japanese culture. 

She shares the scary experience of being in Tokyo for a large earthquake with fears of radiation exposure due to a nuclear power plant leak as well as just every day experiences from parties and hanging out with friends. I love the honesty and familiarity she conveys with which she conveys her story. The illustrations are fun and in full color.

I love how various her living situations were. She had roommates, lived with a family and lived by herself. She shares the struggles of finding work and maintaining it. She also shares her love and knowledge of Japanese food. Plus she shares her own experiences with transportation from the train to bicycles and more. Her story is full of fun moments as well as a glimpse at the culture. I hope you will check it out!

Our next book is coming out at the end of this month. It is by a Spanish born author and his experience of living in Japan. It is The Magic of Japan by Héctor García.

From the Publisher:

A charming collection of quirky insights into Japanese culture.

The Magic of Japan is writer 
Héctor García's intensely personal account of his fifteen years in Japan. A self-professed "otaku" or Japanese anime geek since childhood, García has worked for a Japanese software company, mastered the language, and become one of Japan's most popular bloggers.

This book is the culmination of his experiences and showcases 
García's unique ability to delve beneath the surface of Japanese culture to describe its quirky and deep spiritual underpinnings. This collection of essays and beautiful photographs will appeal to his worldwide fan base—including those who devoured his previous bestsellers, A Geek in Japan and Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life—Japanophiles, armchair travelers and anyone with an interest in cultural and travel memoirs.

The Magic of Japan features Garcia's keen observations on a wide variety of cultural topics:
  • Japanese behavioral traits, including non-verbal communication, hansei (self-reflection), heijoshin (a calm mind) and shoshin (childlike openness)
  • How Japan's geography and history have shaped its culture—its natural disasters, scarce resources, centuries of isolation and its feudal past
  • Japanese idiosyncrasies, ranging from food traditions and absurd jobs to a love of queues
  • The Japanese spirit, as evidenced in traditional art, manga and attitudes to women
  • Shintoism and Buddhism, looking at temples, festivals, rituals and how religious beliefs pervade popular culture, as seen for example in Studio Ghibli's movie Spirited Away
  • Japan's dark side, including crime, the yakuza, adultery, bullying and suicide

The book ends with a gloriously random selection of all things 
García considers especially magical about Japan—from izakaya to shiitake mushrooms, summer fireworks and green tea!

From Me:

This book gives you an inside look at Japan and its culture. It has a bit of history mixed in as well as his point of view both in the beginning of his Japanese experience to living there full time for over a decade. I love how the overall theme of the book is about being a good traveler. He warns the travelers of having biases about the places they visit and not understanding the culture. Throughout the book there comments about how some travelers will not be open to learning about the culture and why things are done differently in that country than it is at the travelers' home. It is obvious he has worked through his own biases and is sharing his experience and how it grew into wonder and love for Japan. 

García also shares his own favorite things from ramen places in Tokyo to festivals and observations. The book is perfect for the person who wants to learn more about the culture especially before making a trip to Japan. It is personalized and written from his own experience and will help make a trip even more meaningful. 

I hope you will check out these books and explore Japan a bit more!