Holiday in Japan: books


Now we’re getting to the real holiday nitty gritty! Well, actually, this was a low-on-reading holiday, despite basically spending four days just travelling.

You see, as part of our almost-everything-going-wrong outward journey, my Kindle broke. At some point between the third flight and arriving at our hotel, the screen was damaged so that the bottom third or so was just a grey rectangle. Which made it unusable. And I had packed ZERO physical books. So that sucked.

I thought about buying a new Kindle there and then, but I decided to just download the Kindle app onto my phone and look out for a book shop. Which initially seemed really smart, as there were LOADS of book shops in Tokyo. They were everywhere! On our first proper day of holiday we walked a couple of miles from Roppongi to Shibuya and went into at least four book shops, while passing another half a dozen or so. But I quickly learned that even in foreigner-filled Roppongi, the only English-language books were those about learning Japanese. Handy, but not quite what I had in mind.


Still, I loved that there were so many book shops, and continued to pop into them whenever time allowed. In Akihabara there’s even a 10-storey book shop, the Shosen Book Tower, but sadly they had posters up explaining they did not sell English-language books. And fair enough; in a city of 38 million Japanese people, why would you?

The other thing I learned about Japanese book shops is that a large proportion of their wares is manga, and they all include a corner of manga porn. Not that we went flicking through the books in search of it – the cover art makes it pretty clear. That was … interesting.

The one place I found English-language books was Tower Records, which dedicates a floor to books and posters, of which a small section is modern fiction in English. But for some reason I was feeling picky that day and wasn’t interested in the same old books I could buy at any WHSmiths back home. I wanted to find something authentically Japanese. At the very least, a Haruki Murakami I didn’t already own. The closest they had was the latest Kazuo Ishiguro. I love Ishiguro, and yes he was born in Japan, but he’s British and he writes in English, so it didn’t seem especially Japanese. (When I hadn’t found any other English-language books a week later I did regret a little bit not buying that book, though.)


In the end, I read two books on my Kindle/phone in two weeks, which goes to show that reading on a five-inch backlit screen is a rubbish experience. But I did buy two books in Tokyo Narita airport and read them both on the way home. Paper for the win. And they were manga, so super Japanese!

(I will attempt to write brief reviews of my holiday reads once I have figured out how to view my notes and highlights in the Kindle app.)