Book Review: A Geek in Japan

A Geek in Japan - Book Review

I’ve actually had my eye on A Geek In Japan for a long time but I never could quite get myself to pull the trigger and pick up a copy. Let tell you why I was having trouble with this book and why ultimately it was my loss.

The Otaku Culture Freaks Me Out

I’m not going the lie to you, the hard core obsessed otaku (fan) culture of Japan makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Perhaps I recognize a bit of myself in some of their fanatical ways, but it’s always been a bit of an awkward relationship. I can appreciate things like Japanese anime, and I even enjoy it, but the feverish frenzy that sometimes surrounds a hardcore Japan fan often makes me want to run the other way. A bit hypocritical I know.

For this reason, I was never able to convince myself to purchase the book A Geek in Japan. When I see the word “geek” and “Japan” in the same sentence I can’t help but think I’m in for a passionate debate about who was the best character in Neon Genesis Evangelion. So I kept putting it off and putting it off until I received a review copy from Tuttle Publishing.

A let me tell you, I was missing out on one of the most interesting and thorough looks at Japan that I have ever read.

What Makes This Book Shine

A Geek in Japan

While reading this book I was often taken back with how much useful information about Japan’s past and present you could pack in a book while still making it super easy to ready and incredibly attractive. It was like I was reading an exhaustive Wikipedia article on Japan all bundled up with beautiful images, typography, graphs and charts.

In each of the 12 chapters the author details specific areas and interests in Japan with keen insights. I thought I knew a lot about Japan, but I was learning something new with every chapter. Why did it take me so long to read this book?

While I was reading the chapter on Japanese society and daily life, I decided to do a bit of an experiment. I had read a book a few years ago on the extremely isolated culture of hikikomori in Japan. Basically they are typically young men who withdraw completely from society and avoid almost all social contact.

While reading this chapter I was wondering if author Hector Garcia would touch on this group. Sadly the chapter ended and there was no mention of hikikomori. Of course, being the smug person that I am, I did sit back and think “Ahh well, you can’t know everything I guess”. That smug feeling didn’t last long when just a few pages over in the next chapter there was a detailed explanation of the hikikomori. In fact it was discussed in a later section as well.

Touché Hector!

A Geek in Japan

While it’s not a really long book (160 pages), A Geek In Japan delivers an amazingly well rounded look at most of the things that attract a traveller to Japan. And while this book is not a travel guide, included is a section on the most popular areas of Tokyo as well as some suggestions on what to see. A nice touch.

So even though it took me a long time to get around to reading this book, I fully recommend you check it out if you have even a slight interest in Japan. I can almost guarantee you’ll learning something new about Japan in A Geek in Japan.

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