on May 26, 2011
An unabashed Japanophile, I've collected a fair number of books on the country over the years, searching for that one book that would offer both decent photography and meaty content. While that's a lot to ask, I think "A Geek in Japan" comes the closest to fitting the bill.
Die-hard Japanophiles probably won't encounter too much in the way of new information here -- the strength of the book is purely in its presentation. Within the pages of this slim volume, you get hundreds of color photos of every aspect of Japan, every one of them dynamic, without the usual "travelogue" pics so many books have resorted to. I was particularly pleased to see the author has taken the "little bit of everything" approach, which means you can open a page at random and find something interesting to read. This isn't a single narrative, but rather made up of page-long sections covering everything from food to Japanese company dynamics. Bonus points for a two-page spread that demonstrates the evolution of "Densha Otoko" from anonymous forum posting to full-fledged Japanese multimedia phenomenon.
on May 31, 2011
I truly enjoyed this book and I think it's going to delight anyone with an interest in Japan. It reads as a true personal experience of the country, not another tourist guide or brochure, it includes gorgeous photographs (taken by the author) and even though the word "geek" is on the title, Mr. Garcia strikes a difficult balance in the subjects he portraits, ranging from ancient traditions to the latest trends without forgetting the craziest Akihabara antics.
When I picked up "A Geek in Japan" I didn't know what to expect, nor did I particularly expect to find a book I'd enjoy or find useful, but I was wrong. I was preparing for a three week trek across Japan and was reading all I could get my hands on. Despite not being into manga, anime, or (especially) J-Pop, I found this book to be interesting and topical. García is a brilliant young writer (he has a MS in Software Engineering and worked for CERN…) and is great at breaking ties with stiflingly stodgy travel guide sensibilities and writing about contemporary subjects in a contemporary way. The photographs and illustrations are excellent, and his viewpoints are intriguing; most of all his advice is sage and worth paying attention to. I found Chapter 11, "Visiting Tokyo" to be among the most useful and relevant things I read in preparation for my time spent there. I actually carried this book with me to Japan (and home) but I got the most use out of it preparing for the trip.
If you are looking for a traditional guidebook to Japan, Fodor's has an excellent offering (I have theirs too,) but if you want a more youthful guide to contemporary Japan that is entertaining while still being useful, "A Geek in Japan" will be certain to pique your interest.
on May 26, 2011
A geek in Japan is not a travel guide, but rather a way to immerse you in the Japanese culture, and therefore an essential read for anyone that really wants to enjoy a trip to Japan or learn about this wonderful country.
The author is an amazing photographer, and the whole book is populated with beautiful photos illustrating the different aspects of the Japanese culture. This fun, dynamic and colorful presentation manages to bring this book to life. You will find yourself jumping from section to section looking at fun pictures, and every time you start reading one of the sections it becomes so engaging that you will have to read it all. The narrative is fresh, fun and easy to read, while at the same time providing very complete and accurate description of a myriad of topics from the ancient traditions to the modern popular culture, and plenty of tips for travelers.
I got this book a couple of days ago, it is such a page turner than I went through it almost non-stop, and I find myself reading again sections I like and looking at the pictures on them. I highly recommend it.
This isn't a Fodor's guide in any universe. This is a current, cultural cross section of Japan. I have read many books on Japan, and this is among my favorites. Despite not having any earth shattering new information, it is well put together and very engaging. Despite the repeated Naruto references... (Actually four I think). It is definitely geared towards a younger crowd, though not really only for teenagers. I feel like the target audience is about 16 to 36. Young folks looking to learn more about other cultures and hopefully travel there one day.
The earlier sections discuss the history of Japan briefly. It's actually fun. A brief mention is made of the shogunate and all, but the author quickly moves on to the more interesting historical aspects. We read about the four writing systems used in Japan. We also look at Ukiyo-e (simply one of my personal favorite art styles), martial arts, calligraphy, religion (Shinto is really interesting), and traditions such as the tea ceremony and de-bunking myths about Geisha.
The heart of the book discusses current culture and society in Japan, from working folks, to younger folks. The author discusses the interesting after hours 'work party' atmosphere prevalent in Japan. He also makes mention of schooling and the intense competition for entrance into prestigious high schools and universities. We also read about the intense pressure put on these school kids.
A lot of content is spent on modern pop culture in Japan. By modern, I mean post WW2. We look at the history of manga and anime. One section is dedicated to current music in Japan and mentions bands such as L'arc en Ciel and Orange Range.
The final section covers briefly some of the sights to see when visiting Japan. The author definitely shows his preference for Kyoto and Tokyo (which are the two cities to visit for your first time). A brief mention is made of some of the other nearby cities. But it's by no means a travel guide, so he doesn't spend a lot of page on the other places. I don't even think he mentions Sapporo or Ise.
It is a fun book, with nice, glossy pictures showing a lot of what Westerner's don't see often in guide books, and that is people in Japan going about their lives. Instead of having 400 pictures of temples, we see Japanese workers at a bar, an actual Geisha (rare to get a photo of a real one), cosplayers, youngsters just hanging out, and families at parks and festivals.
It's a worthy purchase for an Otaku, or even someone really interested in Japanese culture. The author moved to Japan in 2004, and is a real, honest geek with an MS in software engineering. I love that in his picture on the back flap he is wearing a Blade Runner shirt. How awesome is that?
on June 19, 2011
I lived in Japan for 4 years and every-time I used to step out of my house, I used to see something and wonder what that is, wonder why they do that, wonder what I should do now. And I could never get an answer to my questions sometimes because of the language barrier, sometimes because I didn't want to sound like a "gaijin" and sometimes because even Japanese people didn't know the answer. To them, that was just the way things were. A Geek in Japan is like a compilation of answers to all questions that ever crossed my mind presented in a fun, colorful and extremely addictive way. Every other page there was an A-HA moment for me. If you ever plan to visit Japan, are there already or are just curious about it, this book is for you. Japan is a fascinating but mysterious place for any foreigner, and having all those mysteries unraveled through this extremely well written book can make your stay many times more interesting and memorable.
on January 25, 2013
This Book covers Everything to Anything a Geek would Love in Japan , Any Geek who Visits Japan Without this Book Will Have to Visit Japan Again with This Book , The Concierge in the Hotel Was Surprised by the Stuff i was asking about from the book and told me no tourist go here only japanese people , you will need a translator !! i knew then i hit the spot. if you want you Trip to Japan to be worth all your Geeky intrest you should buy this book before you complete reading my review :0 !!
on March 26, 2013
It's a fine compilation of japanese culture facts, which is ok, but for the the title I expected it to be more "geeky" in an technologic and "otaku" sort of way. I'm not the ultimate manga/anime consumer, but I do get my share, and I bought this on the airport hours before I arrive Tokyo, hoping this could be useful to identify certain "otaku" spots and events I could go during the week I spend there, but the information of the book is quite general and not as specific as the title suggest.
I have a number of travel guides and books on Japan, I have several language books as well. I've gotten interested in Japanese culture through manga and anime, which while it may be fiction, it often tells things about a culture I find fascinating. Most of the travel books are more from a tourists perspective on what to see, where to eat, with a few cultural references thrown in on the given areas visited. This book is more of a culture book which explains or at least tries to demystify the what and who is Japan and Japanese. From the origins of some of the more quirky customs to the influence of past history and the modernization of Japan.
Along the way you learn a few words and terms and what they stand for. Some interesting cultural behaviors like Honne and Tatemae, which don't translate very well in Western terms but in general explain a lot about the people. of Japan. Other cultural topics explored include Bushido, the Real Geisha, Martial Arts, Zen, and the use of the Swastika called the Manji symbol in Japan. It explained the use of wearing masks, which I though was just not to spread germs, but is mainly used as a filter for all the pollen released in cherry blossom season. Food and other pastimes are explained as well, each in a nice concise little story fashion conducive to easy reading.
They also explore the culture I like the manga, and the anime, and the craziness of it all. The festivals, the shrines and what the different beliefs represent. It does this all is such a way, it's like reading a good book you can't put down. The book does a nice job of weaving its tales through a historical perspective of Japanese history and without being boring doing so. Highly recommended for anyone looking to learn more about Japan or just someone who likes other cultures. Be forewarned if you know nothing about Japan and you read this book, you can be their will likely be a trip to Japan in your future.
on April 22, 2012
All I can say is WOW! This is definitely required reading for anyone interested in or about to visit The Land of the Rising Sun.
Before my third trip to Japan I read this book cover to cover. Even after spending a school semester in Japan, with my stepfamily (100% Japanese) I really never fully grasped or understood Japanese culture. After reading this book I feel like my eyes were finally opened, I had that AHA! moment. The basics and whys of Japanese culture, life, everything is explained so well in Hector Garcia's book. And the "geek" aspect of the book, described in such detail about anime, city tours, etc. are so awesomely well put.
Pick up this book immediately if you're interested in the slightest.