Tokyo. It’s one of the largest cities in the world, and has a good buzz around it. It wasn’t one of my must-see destinations when I was living in Japan, but the more I visited this metropolis, the more I came to love its blend of ultra new and tech mixed with the traditional. The Little Book of Tokyo gives a great view of Tokyo and what it has to offer.
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of The Little Book of Tokyo by Ben Simmons. The timing was great as I am just about to start scanning my negatives from my time in Japan so that they are easier for me to share with the children. If you love this book, then check out my reviews on The Little Book of Kyoto and The Little Book of Japan.
I was in Japan for 10 months before I first visited Tokyo, but I would return several times, and it was my last stop before leaving Japan one final time. I was eager to get lost in the pages of this little hardcover book and see both how Tokyo has changed, as well as how it has stayed the same.
Quite by chance, the first page I opened had a photo of the ‘Golden Turd,’ a golden sculpture that sits atop the Asahi Beer Hall. Of course, that’s not the real name for the sculpture, it’s actually meant to be a golden flame, but just as sculptures here in Northern Ireland happen to acquire nick names, this also happens elsewhere. During my trip to Tokyo to watch Sumo, I stayed in a capsule hotel from which you could see this sculpture from the window.
The photographs in this Little Book of Tokyo, are professional, but also of everyday things. The kind of photos I’d have loved to take more of while I was there. But that was before I had a DSLR (or any digital camera). If I returned now I’d be taking photos of so many more things! The photos used in this book would easily have taken years to accumulate over the seasons, festivals, and events. This book has been a labour of love for a city where Ben’s heart surely lies.
Little Book Of Tokyo’s Four Chapters:
- The Spirit of Tokyo
- Traditional Tokyo
- Tokyo Today
- Tokyo Sights
You can read the book in any order, even dipping in and our and all around. Each subsection is generally 4 pages, with about 3-5 short paragraphs of information about the history, culture, and background of the area. The main focus of the book are the photographs which take up the majority of the page space, which a short description of each picture also included.
Including photographs of both traditional elegance to modern high-tech and the everyday mundane, you’ll see Tokyo as it really is: a land of contradictions that meld together into a city of beauty and wonder.
The Spirit of Tokyo
This is a great way to begin the book with all the most exciting things about Tokyo; temples, shrines, festivals, and of course my favourite Tokyo events: Kabuki theatre and Sumo wrestling.
Wind your way through Tokyo’s history; it was around long before pachinko machines and Hello Kitty cafés. From the Emperor’s palace, historic gardens, Edo-Tokyo museum, and moving a little further out to the Great Buddha in Kamakura, you are immersed in history and culture.
This section is divided into some of the popular areas of Tokyo, as many travel guides are organised. From the scrambled street crossings of Shibuya to the electric town of Akihabara and over to Roppongi. Lights, electronics, amusements, and great views are all included.
Speaking of views, this last section covers some of the not-to-be missed sights of the area, just in case the first 143 pages hadn’t included enough for you to add to your bucket list. Visit Tokyo’s new Skytree for an awesome view, or sit back on a train and circle around Tokyo. Cross the Rainbow Bridge, or travel the waterways. Soak up the fragrance and flavours of Shinjuku Gyoen Park, or feel the excitement building in the Olympic Tokyo.
From Cover to Cover
It didn’t take me very long to devour The Little Book of Tokyo; I have other books that I need to read but this little one kept calling to me and it’s the kind of book where you can read a short section of it in a few minutes and then not have to remember where you left off. Since I’ve read it, I’ve kept it by the bed because I still like to pick it up when I’m feeling stressed so I can get lost in the pictures and dream of returning to Tokyo again one day.
When I lived in Japan there was still limited knowledge that was easily available about this wondrous land, both on the internet and in English bookshops. There was so much unknown that to go there for an extended period of time was a leap of faith. It’s wonderful now to see how much more information is available about one of the best places on the planet.
Whether you love gorgeous photos of Japanese culture, love being an armchair traveller, or have plans to visit Tokyo in the future (perhaps for the Olympics), then I’m certain you’ll love The Little Book of Tokyo. In fact, I have already referenced this book when a cousin asked me what I would recommend for him to see while he had a free day there on business.