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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/26/2007 Archived Entry: "Book review: Pop Japan Travel: Essential Otaku Guide"

Pop Japan Travel: Essential Otaku Guide
by Makoto Nakajima
Digital Manga Publishing
Pop Japan Travel

Review by Tom Good

This travel guide in manga form tells the story of a group of Americans who journey to Japan to get their geek on. Some go for the anime, others for cosplay or collectible figurines, but they all love Japanese culture and want to see it firsthand. Though the book does contain some travel essentials, it won't replace a Lonely Planet or Fodor's guide. Instead, it concentrates on conveying the confusion and excitement of being a foreigner in Japan for the first time.

Pop Japan Travel does a good job of describing the feel of some of the intriguing neighborhoods of Tokyo, from the high tech center Akihabara to the red-light district Kabukicho. The book also warns of some common American errors, such as mispronouncing kawaii (cute) as kowai (scary), thus turning a compliment into an insult. I've actually seen this occur, because some Americans tend to say something like "kuh-why" which sounds closer to kowai to Japanese speakers. But in a sense kawaii is more like a four-syllable word: ka-wa-i-i with the "i" sounding like "eee".

Because this is a manga, there are a few over-the-top action scenes: the characters get involved in high-speed scooter stunts in busy traffic, and find themselves in a dangerous encounter with yakuza (Japanese crime gangs, similar to the Mafia). Obviously these are not recommended activities for travelers in Japan, or anywhere else for that matter, but it does liven up the plot. (The one time I rode a motorcycle in Japan was a scary experience that I will never repeat.)

If you're looking for some inspiration to visit Japan, this book is a light-hearted and fun place to start.

Pop Japan Travel - The real life adventure! Live the manga! Or something. Ed

Replies: 1 Comment

It's a fine story (not wonderful but interesting). ;)

Posted by Rob @ 11/21/2007 05:25 AM PST

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