I’m very excited to be going back to Kyoto for my honeymoon next week! Here are 5 non fiction books I would recommend reading about Japan, in no particular order.
A Geek In Japan
The geek of the book is Hector Garcia whose original blog was called kirainet.com (it is now called ageekinjapan.com). His blog documented his move to Japan and the interesting things he found there. His posts were often about Japanese popular culture and all things otaku. This book covers all aspects of Japanese culture, from a photographic explanation of ‘how to bow’ to a history of robots and Manga. The final section of the book is very useful for making a trip to Tokyo as it explains the various shopping districts and sights that would interest anyone who calls themselves otaku such as the Ghibli Museum and Akihabara.
CultureShock! Japan A survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
Did you know that blowing your nose in public in Japan is frowned upon? Or that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a traditional meal on Christmas Eve in Japan? Or that buying an ill person a potted flower is a terrible faux pas?
What I love about this book is its honesty and humour. It is full of lots of personal anecdotes as well as practical information about visiting Japan, whether short or long term.
Kawaii! Japan’s culture of cute.
This is another gorgeous book, filled with colour photographs about all aspects of kawaii culture. It is full of interviews with people such as the editor of the fashion magazine ‘Fruits’ and the creators of some of well known kawaii characters. *Obviously*, it has a section on Hello Kitty but did you know about Gloomy Bear, who is guro-kawaii (grotesque cute) and looks like the love child of Hello Kitty and Hannibal Lecter? This isn’t essential for travelling to Japan but is a fun book if you are interested in kawaii culture and Harajuku fashion.
Hokkaido Highway Blues
This is a travelogue that came about as the result of a drunken night out! During the celebration of the cherry blossom season, after too much sake, Will Ferguson decided to follow the blossoms as they came into bloom across Japan, hitchhiking all the way. This chronicles the people he met and places he stopped off at and explains a bit of Japanese culture along the way. I’ll be packing this to reread on the plane next week.
Tokyo On Foot
This is more of an art book than travel guide. It is a collection of the detailed sketches that Florent Chavouet made during his stay in Tokyo. Of course, one can’t help feeling that he should have Cultureshock! beforehand, as some of his stories such as the time he ‘borrowed’ a bike because it wasn’t locked up and unsurprisingly was arrested, reveal total ignorance of Japanese culture and etiquette. But it does allow for interesting stories and sketches.
Hope you enjoy my recommendations. See ya when I get back!