Reviewby Caitlin Moore,
Tokyo: Day by Day: 365 Things to See and Do!
Ever visit a city and feel overwhelmed by choice on what to do? Or maybe you're tired of doing the same old touristy stuff and fancy something a little more off the beaten path? Tokyo Day By Day is the book for you! With full-color photographs on every page, there's a suggestion for every single day of the year. Pick and choose the spots that sound most interesting, learn about Japan's punny holidays, and celebrate the seasons, 365 days a year.
A lot of us had to cancel travel plans when the pandemic struck, and considering we're all anime fans here, I'm willing to bet quite a few of you reading had trips to Tokyo scheduled. While it wasn't to Japan, I had to cancel my honeymoon myself, so I felt the sting of disappointment as much as anyone else. Still, there is a (very small) silver lining: when the world goes back to normal-ish and foreign travel becomes viable again, this handy little book will be available.
As someone who has spent a lot of time perusing guidebooks, I can say with confidence that Tokyo Day By Day is far from a typical one. Each page describes a single suggested stop, whether it be a place to eat, shop, stay, or an activity. Two-thirds of the page is taken up by a full-color photograph, with a paragraph describing the stop underneath and a small sidebar with basic location information including neighborhood, address, train stop, and any other special notes.
Part of what makes it so unusual is that it was originally written in Japanese for domestic tourists, and was later translated into English. To the trained eye, this is apparent in its suggestions and recommendations. A sizable proportion of the pages is devoted to restaurants, which are often high priority in a country where every city has a local specialty dish. Many of the eateries specialize in dishes that are a hard sell to all but the most adventurous travelers from the US, such as organ meat. Other pages recommend craft workshops and similar activities, but I'd be shocked if it turned out even half of them were offered in English.
Because of its unusual nature, Tokyo Day By Day lacks the functionality of many guidebooks, and certainly wouldn't serve well for a first-time traveler with no knowledge of Japanese. Recommendations for accommodations are few and far between, and there are no maps, how-tos, or useful phrases to speak of. This will not teach you how to greet people or ask how much something in those cool niche shops it lists costs; if that's what you need out of a guidebook, this should not be your sole resource.
There's another group this book will be of limited usefulness to as well: budget travelers. Few of the entries mention price ranges, but quite a few of them are in the ritzy Ginza and glitzy Roppongi. Hotel Miracosta in Tokyo DisneySea will set you back at least three hundred dollars a night, and I can only assume making an umbrella at a specialty shop will cost several times more than a disposable convenience store equivalent. If your travel plans generally involve spending most nights in a hostel dorm and living convenience store bentos and Sukiya, this will probably not be the book for you.
However, if you have some money to spend and some basic Japanese ability, this could be an invaluable and insightful resource. While it gives its due to many of the usual tourist sites, such as Tokyo Tower and Yoyogi Park, most of the entries are well off the beaten path. Following its suggestions will take you to old-Tokyo shitamachi haunts, unusual restaurants, and seasonal activities and festivals, many of which draw local crowds more than throngs of tourists. The Japanese calendar is full of special “holidays,” many of which are puns on how the date is written or pronounced, and you'll find recommendations on how to spend Mint Day, Yakiniku Day, and many others.
Following this book will take you out of the city as well. Tokyo isn't exactly known for its lush nature, but considering how mountainous Japan is, it shouldn't be surprising how many hikes are a quick hop away. There are recommendations for natural getaways not just in Tokyo prefecture, but in neighboring prefectures such as Kanagawa and Saitama as well. If nature calls, and not just when you need to empty your bladder, you can get away from the skyscrapers and crowds to see the hydrangeas bloom at Minoyama Park in late June, hike across the Yume no Tsuribashi suspension bridge, or enjoy the sandy beaches of Niijima.
Although I don't know when it'll be, I know I want to go back to Tokyo someday. When I do, I won't just be poking around the anime stores of Akihabara or wandering up and down Harajuku's Takeshitadoori. I'll have this book by my side to guide me not just to the big tourist stops, but to the off-beat, the seasonal, the quirky. I'll never again spend the day in my room, unsure of what to see that I haven't already visited. Tokyo has many secrets, and now I feel like I know just a few more of them.
Overall : B+
Art : A-
+ Will help most traveler find places off the beaten path to explore in Tokyo, no matter what the season; gorgeous photography
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