Whether you’re planning your first trip to a new country or looking for hidden gems in an old stomping ground, you could do a lot worse than pick up a travel guide to help you discover more about an area. Choosing which guide to get can be difficult as, for most areas, there is a wide range of maps and guides around for anywhere you want to go from ones that cover whole countries to ones that are little more than a detailed map of a small area.
Tuttle have gone somewhere in the middle with their latest title, the Tokyo Geek’s Guide, which on the surface should allow you to hit every location in Tokyo relevant to most geeky interests and give newbies a good bit of guidance into the various geek subcultures. As veterans to what Tokyo has to offer, will the Tokyo Geek’s Guide show you all the good sites or will it send you on a wild goose chase?
The guide itself is well presented and divides the city into its core districts and cities, identifying all the shops, museums and events that you can find there in each area. The focus of the guide covers a wide range of interests both geeky and educational, including anything from anime to cosplay, japanese fashion and eateries and museums. The guide principally focuses on the Japanese side of the otaku fandom with only brief mentions of places focusing on more Western items. The Tokyo Geek’s Guide also covers a basic history of various aspects of otaku culture such as Cosplay, Idol Fandom and Godzilla along with a few interviews with key icons of the various geek cultures.
Whilst the guide doesn't cover every store you can hit (having spent several hours pottering through Akihabara alone earlier this year I can attest to that) and does have some rather interesting omissions, it does cover an impressive number of locations and provides a reasonable level of detail about what you can expect to find accompanied by lots of big glossy photos and maps. Certainly, whatever your level of knowledge about the city you will find something new and of interest here and there's lots of helpful advice of how to book places, expected behaviours and hints on which places might have helpful English speakers in attendance.
There's genuinely nothing negative to say about the guide - it's a solid book. There are a few niggles however. For starters, whilst each areas locations are laid out as a kind of semi-walking route, the accompanying map is at the back of each segment whereas having it at the front so you can orient yourself would have been more helpful (a mini map on each page would have been even better).
It would also have been great if the various locations were indexed by what type of thing you could find there so that you could at a glance pick out all the cosplay stores for example. A little more focus on a few key stores would have been good too, perhaps with more pictures of some of the stores windows and cool stuff you can find in them. Maybe just with the store logos so that you can recognise the kana on the stores. Like with many malls and businesses in Japan, you shouldn't count on all the stores being there when you arrive but the guide does very well in countering that by directing you to the wide reaching areas and key streets so that you can explore for yourself.
You could also do with a little bit more information about one or two of the events given that they can be very tricky to access for non-japanese speakers. For example whilst Wonderfest is mentioned, the guide only really directs you to the website and doesn't mention that to attend you generally have to buy the catalogue from a shop, and then endure the five hour wait outside and it doesn’t mention the issues getting tickets to the bi-annual comic markets either. However, this is understandable as these events do change a lot over time and this is a print book which has limited updatability. It might be that the Kindle edition has this update function, but thime will only tell (Ed: Ok, I really want this to turn into a copy of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy now! Don’t Panic.)
All in all though this is a solid guide book which, whilst it might be a little bigger than you'd want to pack in your suitcase, it will be a great help in sorting out things to do and see in Tokyo. If paired with one of the detailed street maps and public transport maps then you will need to make the most of your time in this amazing city. Certainly it'll give you a big drive to get your trip booked so that you can see all these amazing things for yourself. Now, if you'll excuse us we have to go buy plane tickets… again.
Buy the guide here.