If you’d like to know more about Japan, A Geek In Japan: Discovering The Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and The Tea Ceremony, written by a foreigner who has lived there for 15 years, is the book for you! It’s packed full of just about every question about modern Japan that you could think of.
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of A Geek In Japan to review. This is the revised and expanded edition with new topics, and is by the creator of ageekinjapan.com, Héctor García. I’ve had my eyes on the original version for ages, so I was really delighted to have this book show up unexpectedly!
You may know that I lived in Japan from 2001 to 2003, and at that time there wasn’t much on the internet yet about Japanese life and culture. A copy of this book should be in every gaijin‘s residence. Héctor moved there in 2004, and began documenting life on his blog, which then evolved into this book.
Have you ever wondered:
- Why do people wear masks in Japan?
- Why do women in Japan cover their mouths when they laugh?
- Why is Japan so safe? Why is theft and other crime so sparse?
- Why is maga so popular?
- What is student life like?
If so, you’ll find all these answers, and hundreds more answered in A Geek in Japan. There is lots of valuable information here. High school and university students and adults will find it interesting. It would make an excellent gift for someone taking time out to teach English in Japan, or has a trip planned. I was also able to grab tidbits of information and incorporate it into our homeschool classes. And I may even have been a little annoying for Phil one night when I was flipping through saying, “I’ve been there. I’ve done that.” I love when that happens!
There are loads and loads of information on all manner of things Japanese from work and business etiquette and from J-Pop to martial arts. It’s the most comprehensive Japanese book I’ve read in a long while. The text is small, which means even more can fit on a page, but the photos are large for good visual reference.
I enjoyed taking a break from painting the house and fence, and taking a cup of Japanese tea outdoors to sit near our sakura, relax, and read a few pages while waiting for the postman to make his rounds.
More Information in A Geek In Japan
- How Valentine’s Day and White Day are celebrated and a good explanation of “obligatory chocolate.”
- “Chotto” and how it’s a common and useful word, and how it also has a subtle meaning. You are sure to come across someone using this phrase, and also use it yourself.
- Gain a deeper appreciation of manga and anime, and how this is crossing over to the Western world.
- There are some examples given of how the culture and thought patterns between East and West differ and how that relates to architecture, which I found very interesting.
- Urban legends – find out if they are true or false: does everyone speak English? Is everything extremely clean? Is it truly extremely expensive in Japan?
A Geek in Japan has a chapter on Tokyo, the capital of Japan, as well as on Kyoto, the previous capital, but the rest of the book is about Japan in general, so it’s useful anywhere. you can read this book straight through, or choose what grabs your interest and jump around exploring at leisure.
Japanese culture is fascinating to outsiders, and tourists may think they’ve experienced the ‘real’ Japan after just a short time there, but to really get an understanding, you must live and immerse yourself within Japan. The longer you stay, the more you get out of it. As foreigners, we will never be truly integrated into the culture, even after a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that learning as much about the culture, ways of doing things, the history, and the future of Japan cannot leave a mark on us. Héctor has done an admirable job of presenting so much of what makes Japan, Japan, and going beneath the surface that is what the vast majority of foreigners will see and understand.
If you have an interest in Japan, I highly recommend this book before you go, and if you’ve already traveled to Japan, then read this book after your return and think about the experiences and interactions you had and reflect on them in a new light.
If you’re interested in purchasing A Geek In Japan, it’s available through: