Times are strange, there’s no denying it, but one thing that never changes is the charm of a good book. From history to fiction to recipe books, they can offer an insight into a new place as well as a distraction from the one you find yourself in (and who doesn’t need that right now).
Here at Tokyo Cheapo we love a good book and have been running a monthly book exchange event for almost two years. Since we had to put it on pause, we thought we would take some recommendations from our lovely bookswappers. Whether you’re planning (or re-planning) a trip to Japan, are living here or just wanted to try something new, below you’ll find handpicked suggestions related to Japan that delve into the culture, explore the cities and offer to transport you to another world, if just for the afternoon.
If you’re looking for extra ideas, we have our own top picks for your consideration as well as a great guide on where to buy cheap books in Tokyo. While it’s not recommended that you go out right now, they’re good for future reference. Also, it’s worth checking if your local libraries have a delivery service like Saitama. If all else fails, your trusty Kindle is always an easy option!
Our first round of books comes from Trevor, a Tokyo-based teacher and avid commute-reader. All that travel time has given him some great reads, so scroll on for some tempting suggestions!
What’s you name?
Where are you from?
Tell us about yourself (and your reading habits)
Hello, I’m Trevor. I’ve been living in Tokyo and working as a teacher for the last 3 years. I really love reading and have clocked in a number of books on my daily train commute. Musashi-Sakai has a great library with many English books about Japan. You should check it out if you want to make your daily commute less dull.
You can find Trevor and follow his Tokyo adventures on Instagram.
What are you reading right now?
Tokyo Underworld by Robert Whiting
Without further ado: Trevor’s top book recommendations
1. Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein
I studied criminology in college and picked this up at a secondhand store long before I imagined of living in Tokyo. The title sounded cool and the summary on the back intrigued me. I never actually read it until I moved to Japan, but I made sure to pack it in my luggage.
It’s an American’s perspective on the Japanese underworld circa the 1980s and 1990s. Adelstein was the first foreign correspondent for the Yomiuri Shinbun and worked closely with police at crime scenes and dealing with the Yakuza. Quite interesting cultural references are made as well.
Order it here.
2. Hi! My Name is Loco and I’m a Racist by Baye McNeil
It’s a different spin on the traditional westerner in Asia format. McNeil discusses his life in New York as well as Japan and deeply analyzes some big picture questions about race and identity.
The books flows effortless and really hooks you in, waiting to see what will happen next, while taking interesting and introspective detours along the way. Definitely recommended.
Order it here.
3. Tokyo Decadence by Ryu Murakami
This is a collection of snippets from many of Murakami’s stories that have been translated into English. I couldn’t put this book down. As you can tell by my precious collections, I really enjoy true crime and hard-boiled stories.
This is a fantastic read. Think Pulp Fiction in a book and with a Japanese perspective. Excellent twists and turns and woven together seamlessly. Recommended for fans of true crime, mystery and the Hiroshima Carp.
Order it here.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Chiara’s picks in chapter two, Lee’s choices in chapter three and Vo’s selection in chapter three of the series!
Why we’ve chosen the Book Depository: They offer free worldwide delivery, ship from the UK (so still ok to get to Japan for the time being!) and use far less packaging than the likes of Amazon! Of course Kindles offer the most package-free (and paper free) option, but if you’re after the real thing, the book depository is a great option.