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A David of a book to Japan’s Goliath

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A David of a book to Japan’s Goliath

A self-avowed geek reinvents the cultural guidebook genre for readers of the Internet age in this insightful and eye-catching tome.

At just 160 pages, this slim book doesn’t seem to offer much at all. However, we all know how the saying goes.

Unlike many travel guidebooks out there that focus extensively on the places to see and things to do, A Geek in Japan focuses instead on trying to better understand Japan and its people. Spinning off from the author’s hugely successful blog, www.kirainet.com, this book is written by Hector Garcia, a Spaniard with a highly inquisitive mind and a gift for photography. Garcia has been living in Japan for more than 9 years, and he comes across as a foreigner who has been actively immersing himself in Japanese culture, trying to figure out and answer the many niggling questions any visitor to Japan eventually finds himself asking as they travel around the country.

“Japan is completely different from the West,” he writes. “It’s like living in an alien country.” However, by living, studying and working here, he learned to gradually understand this country he now calls home. “I’ve always liked to write about what I learned since I was a kid using notebooks,” he continues. “Using a blog format was a natural step for me to share what I learn with everyone. It’s also a very good format to learn from people, since most of the time the people commenting know more than me about what I write.” After establishing himself online, Garcia decided to foray into the word of books. With starting material from the best of his posts and culled from his various experiences, A Geek in Japan combines short yet insightful articles with eye-catching photography, which makes for an easy read.

He gives a brief overview on fairly standard topics such as Japan’s history, its traditional arts and disciplines, and uses the last two chapters on visiting Tokyo and tips for travelers visiting Japan. But the book’s more interesting bits are found in the middle chapters covering life in Japan and its popular culture. What’s the deal with their interest in blood types? What are their daily lives like? What is it like working for a Japanese company? Where did manga and anime come from? All these satisfying questions are answered, and while it does get repetitive in some parts, this doesn’t take away from the unique information he imparts, and the refreshingly straightforward observations he shares with the reader.

For all those who have already had a taste of Japanese culture, yet are left with wanting to understand more; or for visitors and Japanese pop culture fans who want a more in-depth look into the heart of Japan, there’s definitely something to be picked up from this book.

• Title: A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony
• Author: Hector Garcia
• Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
• ISBN: 9784805311295
• Price: ¥1,800
• Format: 190.5x254mm 160pp paperback

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Hector’s favourite modern culture spots in Kansai

Kyoto International Manga Museum
As far as museums in Kansai go, Hector says it doesn’t get better than this.
www.kyotomm.jp/english

1st Nintendo building
Video game addicts can make a pilgrimage to Kyoto to see Nintendo’s very first building. Check Hector’s website for the location’s Google map link.
www.kirainet.com/english/firstnintendo- building

Village Vanguard (Osaka)
Manga maniacs need look no further than Village Vanguard, found dotted in many locations around Kansai. This one’s conveniently located inside the Loft building in Umeda.
www.loft.co.jp/shoplist/umeda
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