Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Tokyo Stories - Visitors' Introduction To Sights and Pop Culture

I have been blogging about Tokyo and various aspect of Japanese pop culture for almost a decade at this point.  Japanese pop culture, particularly anime, and my visits to Tokyo have brought a great deal of joy into my life over the years.

I've visited many of the great cities of the world and I personally think Tokyo is the most fun to visit, even without taking into account the vibrant nightlife there.  There is a richness to the environment for things to see and do, food to eat, and the unique atmosphere combining high tech and old tradition.  Having exposure to anime, which are often set in historic, contemporary, or future Japan / Tokyo definitely made my experience deeper and better.  There are not many places like Tokyo that also have a meaningful attachment to it through pop culture.

I finally decided to sit down and write a book about visiting Tokyo for everyone who wants to visit, but also apply a pop culture lens to let them get more out of their experience.  My book emphasizes what to see and do for anyone, but provides a pop culture context to give more background to any visit.

The heart of the book is composed of four short stories and descriptions of more than fifty key experiences to have in the city.  I actually wrote the short stories to act as easy introductions to the city with each one having a preface explaining terms and references used in the story.  People remember stories so they should be able to learn something about the city and a particular aspect of pop culture as the same time.  By the end of the book a reader should have a good idea about what they would like to see and do, and understand the context of some of the things they will experience.  This is information that supplements any other guidebook or online source of information they will also use to plan their trip.

I hope you can give the book a read and enjoy both the stories and the experiences I write about.

The e-book is now available on Amazon Canada and USA.
https://www.amazon.com/Tokyo-Stories-Visitors-Introduction-Culture-ebook/dp/B07HR3YZ8N
https://www.amazon.ca/Tokyo-Stories-Visitors-Introduction-Culture-ebook/dp/B07HR3YZ8N



An excerpt from the book is below, including the full preface to Neko Astray.

INTRO TO NEKO ASTRAY
This story introduces some of the basics about trains, Japanese gods, cat cafes, and some Tokyo districts. It is about the journey of a cat and the human that helps her through the mean streets of Tokyo.  Cats are very much loved in Japan and are quite popular in pop culture.  There are cat girls, cat cafes, cat manga, cat islands, lazy cats, cat conductors, lucky cats, etc.  They have been rendered as cute figures in pretty much everything.
  • Buddhist Temple:  Buddhism originates in India, and was imported to Japan from China.  Buddhism co-exists with Shinto in Japan and temple and shrine can exist in the same religious complex.  Buddhism is based on the teachings of Buddha and is about overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth.  There are many sects and traditions, and it has complex mythologies that include many gods, and guardians.
  • Cat cafe:  A theme cafe where you get to interact with cats while having a coffee or a dessert.
  • Cat shrine:  Tokyo has two famous cat shrines where you can pray for luck from a kitty or for a kitty.  Gotokuji Temple is a Buddhist temple known for its cat shrine that has thousands of lucky cat figurines.  Imado Shrine is the other famous cat shrine that features cat statues and it is known as a shrine for love relationships.  Both shrines have a different origin story for the maneki neko.
  • Conveyor belt sushi restaurant:  Kaiten-zushi or rotation sushi where the plates of sushi are premade and placed on a conveyor belt.  Diners pick the plates they wish to eat and a bill is tallied up from the number and type of plates at the table.
  • Gomenasi:  Go-men-a-sigh.  Sorry.
  • Gyudon:  A beef rice bowl.  Sauteed onions and thin strips of beef in a light sauce on top of steamed rice.
  • Konbini:  A Japanese loan word for convenience.  Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan, and are very common near train stations.  Konbini sell all manner of drinks (including alcohol) and snacks, but are known for their high quality fresh food like tasty onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, pastries, bento, fried chicken, and other food.  They also stock a good selection of household products, stationary, personal hygiene supplies, and even underwear in their small confines.
  • Konnichiwa: Kon-ni-chi-wa. Informal hello and greeting from mid-morning to early evening.
  • Maneki Neko:  Lucky cat figure or beckoning cat represented by a sitting cat with one paw raised.  Usually it is a white cat with the insides of the ears colored red.  It is often found in homes and business to bring luck.
  • Neko:  Japanese for cat.
  • Onigiri:  Rice balls. Palm-sized balls of rice with a filling and maybe a wrap of dried seaweed.  These are very popular in Japan and are basically their version of a sandwich.  There are dozens of flavors including: tuna and mayo, salted cod roe, grilled salmon, pickled plum, and Japanese pickled vegetables.
  • Shibuya Crossing:  The busiest pedestrian intersection in the world.  It is a scramble crossing where all vehicular traffic stops for pedestrians to scramble through the intersection from all the corners, then the cars take their turns in alternating directions.  The cycle then repeats itself.
  • Shinto:  The native religion in Japan predates Buddhism and has shamanistic elements to it.  It is tightly coupled to nature gods/spirits or kami and all things on earth can have a kami representing them.  All things on earth also have a spirit.  Prayers and offerings to the kami can be for fertility, good harvest, success in business, to luck in love, etc., depending on the kami.  Kami respond to human prayers to influence the natural course of events.  There is a saying that you are born Shinto and die Buddhist.  Shinto Shrines are often family run.
  • Shinto Shrine:  A sacred space that houses the kami it is for.  Entering through the torii gate, often red, means you are entering sacred ground.  There may be guardian spirits represented too.  For example, an Inari or Fox Shrine will have two foxes guarding the approach.  There are often sacred trees and objects associated with shrines. Jinja is the Japanese for shrine.
  • SUICA card:  A SUICA is a smart chip debit card that you preload with cash at the train station ticket machines, and is used to pay for train rides by scanning at the entrance and exit gates.  The card is used in multiple cities and is valid at many retailers in train stations and even at some vending machines.  PASMO is a competitor card with the same benefits.
  • Sushi:  A topping of thinly sliced seafood, omelette, or vegetable is placed on top of a small, palm pressed clump of cooked white rice.  The topping can be cooked or raw.
  • Tendon: A tempura rice bowl.  Tempura in a sauce on top of steamed rice.
  • Tempura:  Battered and deep fried seafood and vegetables. 

NEKO ASTRAY Excerpt
Saturday is supposed to be a day off, but you found yourself at work early to put the finishing touches on a presentation for Monday morning.   At least your boss is also in this morning to do the final review, and you receive a curt but genuine thank you for your hard work.  Done by lunchtime, you decide to grab a quick bite at a tendon restaurant near the office.

You order a bowl of shrimp and vegetable tempura on rice and leave the restaurant in a better mental state and a pleasantly filled stomach.  There’s nothing like crunchy tempura with sweet and savory sauce on warm rice for comfort food, you think to yourself.  Well, maybe beef bowl might be pretty darn good too, or even a …  Stopping this train of thought as it could go on for awhile, you wonder what to do with the rest of your day.

You were supposed to meet up with friends this morning, but you had to cancel that due to work.  Thinking for a moment, you decide to visit a cat café in nearby Shibuya and then do a little shopping.  A ten minute walk through the streets of densely packed office buildings takes you over to Shibuya Crossing.  The sun is shining and the weather is just right, so the day is turning out pretty good.

Shibuya Crossing is famous for its scramble crossing and statue of the loyal dog, Hachiko.  Hachiko was a Shiba Inu who awaited for his master every day after work even after he had passed on, a story that is both touching and tragic.  The statue is also a popular meeting place, often featured in the media along with the scramble crossing behind it.  The Hachiko exit out of the busy Shibuya Train Station is one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world with thousands of people trying to cross at once during busy times to get to the popular Shibuya shopping district.

When the light changes you begin to cross the street as part of a wave of pedestrians from the Hachiko corner.  You head towards the glass and steel building with the giant 5 story high TV screen that showed a giant walking dinosaur in the movie Lost in Translation.  Under the screen is a Starbucks where you have taken a break before.  This busy coffee shop provides a third floor view over the crowds of people surging through the intersection.  Your pedestrian wave meets the other crowds from the five other corners of the intersection in the middle of the intersection.  Somehow, everyone dodges by each other without collisions.  You then angle slightly to the left of the TV building to head towards Center Gai, the main street in Shibuya for shopping and entertainment.  Walking in a couple of blocks you turn off the main street onto a smaller side street to see a doorway embedded in the mouth of a giant cartoon cat.

It is Café Nyan de Puff, a café where you can have a drink or a dessert and meet cats up close.  You’ve always liked cats and befriended several neighborhood strays before you moved to Tokyo from your home town.  You’d like to own a cat, but your apartment building prohibits pets, so you come to this café once a week to get your feline fix.

Entering, you are greeted by a waitress who directs you to sit down at any open seat.  The café is an open rectangular space with a hardwood floor and walls decorated in bright, cheery colors with cartoon kitties on the walls.   Small tables and chairs are scattered around the room, which is lined with cat trees and ledges and walkways for the cats to roam on.  The front entrance is at one of the narrow ends with a closed off kitchen area in the back, along with a private cat area for cats to retreat to if they don’t want to be bothered.

After a quick look at the menu on your table, you order a latte, and take a look to see if there are any friendly cats wandering about.  Photos of each cat along with their name and personality are placed along the walls so you can call the kitties by name.  You don’t need the pictures though as you are looking for a particular calico cat named Tama.  She has white, orange, and black fur with a black patch over her left eye.  Last weekend this cat had a very nice session of much petting and purring on your lap.  Tama had just arrived two weeks ago, being adopted by the café from a cat shelter, after being found wandering the streets.  She had a collar with a name, but the tags were missing so she couldn’t be returned to her owner.

All around you are grey cats, white cats, black cats, but you don’t see Tama.  “Where are you, Tama,” you say softly to yourself.  Something is suddenly rubbing against your legs and you look down to see that it is Tama.  She trills and looks up at you.
“Tama!” You exclaim.  “You found me.”  You reach down and pet the cat.  After a moment you sit down at your table and she jumps up into your lap, rubbing her face against your hands.  Both of you are happy to see each other.

Your latte arrives and you have a sip while giving Tama a scratch under the chin which she enjoys.  Many minutes pass and you finish your latte.  This is when you observe that Tama is somewhat distracted, after the initial excitement of being reunited with you.  She keeps looking at the front door, which has a double set of doors to keep the cats in.

It has been almost an hour since you arrived and you flag down the waitress to pay for your drink and the cover charge.  She brings a bill and you pull out some coins to pay.  Tama suddenly jumps off of you and moves to the front of the cafe.  She turns to give you a look and a meow that almost sounds like a goodbye.

A big group of high school girls in their uniforms arrives at the café at that moment.  They are having a very animated discussion, and hold both the inside and outside doors open as they enter.  Tama sees the opening and makes a break for it between the girls.  Dodging between the feet she darts out and runs down the sidewalk.  The girls don’t even notice.

“Tama!” You shout out.  The waitress looks up from dealing with another customer to see the cat escape and exclaims, “oh no!”

“I’ll try to get her,” you reply.  “Thank you,” the waitress replies in a flustered tone.

You manage to squeeze by the students who are clustered around the entrance and look down the sidewalk for the cat.  She has a pretty good head start and is halfway down the block already, trotting quickly towards the main street.  You break into a run to catch up.  Tama seems to hear you approaching and looks back at you, then breaks into a run around the corner of Center Gai in the direction of Shibuya Station.

Arriving at the corner, you frantically peer down the street, trying to spot the cat at the feet of numerous pedestrians.  You just manage to spot a tail disappear behind a sidewalk rack of cosmetics at  a corner drug store.  Dashing to the corner, you see Tama is still well ahead of you, but you swear she is talking to a grey street cat.  The two cats are face to face and the grey cat seems to meow and point its head to the side.

“Tama!” you shout again, slightly out of breath, thinking your office job makes you sit too much.
Tama looks at you again then runs into an alley as fast as her little paws can take her.  The grey cat also takes off in a different direction.  You follow her into the alley past stacks of plastic crates against the walls to see the cat run through the back door of a building.  Arriving at the door, you find out it is the kitchen of a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

You see the cat heading right for the front door, undistracted by all the raw fish on plates circling the restaurant on the conveyor belt.   She is unnoticed by the diners enjoying their fresh and cheap sushi.  There is hesitation in your step when you enter the restaurant in this unorthodox manner, but you need to follow the cat who has just exited through the automatic doors at the front of the restaurant.

Unlike the cat, you are noticed exiting the kitchen by one of the sushi chefs, who gives a shout of surprise.  Not wanting to explain what you are doing to a man with a sharp fish knife, you call out a quick sorry as you dash to the front door of the restaurant.  A number of the diners look at you curiously as you run through the restaurant.  Exiting the front of the restaurant you see the cat descend some stairs down into the subway.  A quick glance behind you shows that no one is chasing you, thankfully.  This cat seems to really want to go somewhere, you think to yourself. 

continued in the book...

The e-book is now available on Amazon Canada and USA.
https://www.amazon.com/Tokyo-Stories-Visitors-Introduction-Culture-ebook/dp/B07HR3YZ8N
https://www.amazon.ca/Tokyo-Stories-Visitors-Introduction-Culture-ebook/dp/B07HR3YZ8N

Supplements to the Tokyo Stories book
Supplement #1 - Simplified Tokyo Train Map for Tokyo Stories
Supplement #2 - Sights and Experiences Checklist for Tokyo Stories



Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sights and Experiences Checklist for Tokyo Stories

Tokyo Experiences List 
Tokyo Stories - Visitors' Introduction: Supplement #2


GREAT VIEWS
A short list of the places with nice views of Tokyo from the Tokyo Stories book.

  • Tokyo Skytree and Solamachi Mall
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
  • Tokyo City View in the Mori Tower
  • Shibuya Hikarie Sky Lobby
  • Caretta Shiodome Views
  • Kotsu Kaikan’s Garden Terrace
  • Kitte Building Rooftop Garden
  • Ginza Six Rooftop Garden
TOKYO EXPERIENCES LIST
A checklist of the experiences from Tokyo Stories book you can print off.
  1. 100 Yen Store
  2. Akihabara
  3. Ameyoko Market Streets
  4. Anime & Manga
  5. Arcades
  6. Conveyor Belt Sushi
  7. Don Quijote
  8. Festivals
  9. Food Floors
  10. Gardens
  11. Gashapon Machines
  12. Ghibli Museum
  13. Ghibli Steampunk Clock
  14. Giant Gundam in Odaiba
  15. Giant Godzilla Head
  16. Harajuku / Omotesando
  17. High-tech Toilets
  18. Hot Springs
  19. Imperial Palace
  20. Kappabashi Street
  21. Kit Kats
  22. Konbini
  23. Meiji Jingu
  24. Muji Flagship Store
  25. Museums
  26. Odaiba High Tech
  27. Pokemon Centers
  28. Pop-Up and Antenna Stores
  29. Ramen Museums
  30. Robotics
  31. Rush Hour
  32. Shibuya Crossing
  33. Shinjuku Station
  34. Shinjuku Yasukuni Dori
  35. Shinkansen
  36. Sensoji Temple
  37. Torii Gates at Hei Jinja Shrine
  38. Suginami Animation Museum
  39. Sumida River Boat Tour
  40. Supermarket
  41. Theme Cafes
  42. Tokyo Disney
  43. Tokyo Skytree
  44. Tokyo Station
  45. Tokyo Tower
  46. Tokyu Hands
  47. Tokyu Plaza in Omotesando
  48. Toy Stores
  49. Train System
  50. Tsukiji Market
  51. Tsutsaya Books
  52. UNIQLO Flagship
  53. Vending Machines
Supplements to the Tokyo Stories book
Supplement #1 - Simplified Tokyo Train Map for Tokyo Stories
Supplement #2 - Sights and Experiences Checklist for Tokyo Stories
Get the Tokyo Stories ebook here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Convenience Store Woman Book Review

I like Japanese konbini (convenience stores).  They are a ubiquitous fixture in urban Japanese life.  I've blogged about them in the past and admire their business model from their employee training, products they carry, the logistics behind everything, to their marketing and more.  When I found out there was a novel set in a konbini, I had to read it.  It was funny how I had an incorrect mental image that it was a big fat book, kind of like Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For The Time Being, which is also a good book.  Convenience Store Woman is a much thinner and compact book that is full of konbini goodness.  This book is a novella that is listed in print at 176 pages because it uses larger print in a small format book, but that does make it easier to read.  It is a quick read which means you can easily go back and have a second read of parts you didn't quite get or enjoy the parts you did like again.  A shorter work like many Japanese short novels that has sold over 650,000 copies in Japan.
Convenience Store Woman is about Keiko Furukura, a 36 year old Tokyoite, who works as a clerk in a convenience store.  She has worked at the same konbini for 18 years in fact and is quite content with her job and her perceived role in society.  Fellow workers and even managers have come and gone over the years, but she is the constant who knows the rhythms and patterns around the business of operating the store.

Keiko has problems with empathy and emotion, and really doesn't understand societal norms, other than as rules to be obeyed.  She isn't a bad person in any way though, and I suspect she is somewhere on the spectrum.  Reviewers have described her as being "strange brained" or "struggling to behave appropriately" but her issues are far deeper than that.  The konbini with its manuals, processes, rules for behavior and dress allow her to feel as if she belongs.  That is about all I'll say about the book as I don't want to spoiler anything.  Let me just say that is was an interesting read and that it even has a pretty good plot and ending.

My takeaways from the story were related to konbini and Japanese society.
  1. The book shows the important role that konbini have taken in the lives of many Japanese due to the convenience they offer.
  2. I found the descriptions about the convenience store vibrant and realistic.  You actually learn about the daily business of running a konbini with its flow and ebb.  There is a morning rush, a lunch rush, you need to have rice balls and drinks stocked up and ready to go, everything has be to neat and tidy, etc.  The book has a very authentic feel to it, and demonstrates the author's knowledge about convenience store operations.  The author, Sayaka Murata, worked in a konbini for over 20 years even as she wrote many books and stories.
  3. I like that fact that a foreign worker was shown as working in the store, as there are increasing numbers of foreign workers being employed by the konbini chains who are facing a labor shortage.
  4. Finally, I thought about how people who don't fit into Japanese society are treated.  There is a saying that goes "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down."  If you don't conform then you are an outsider.  We have issues like that here, but we are also more individualistic.  I thought about how hikikimori or shut-ins can exist over there, how families hide problems as they are ashamed, how co-workers and friends can treat you not as you, and how the education system doesn't supply the supports that children need to thrive.  All of this is related with how Keiko has had to live her life.
After reading the book, I was glad that Keiko had the konbini in her life.  I would recommend that anyone who likes konbini or is interested in Japan to read this book.

There is a really long book excerpt you can read at Longreads here.

More posts on Japanese Pop Culture.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Simplified Tokyo Train Map for Tokyo Stories

Tokyo Stories - Visitors' Introduction: Supplement #1 

In my guide book, Tokyo Stories, I have characters taking the train and cover the major districts to visit.  I didn't include a train map, as there are free and official apps such as the Tokyo Metro App that show you how to navigate, or even Google Maps.  This post shows the relative positions of the districts and key train stations to get a general understanding of the layout of Tokyo.
Getting around Tokyo is pretty easy once you have a SUICA or PASMO IC Card (you can obtain these at the airport when you arrive from the train offices or bilingual vending machines).  While the entire subway and train system in Tokyo is quite a maze, a few main lines can get you most places.  In the much simplified train map below, you can see that most major areas are connected by direct trains.  Do remember there are many ways to get to places and that 90% of the stations  or lines are not shown on this map.
Click on the Tokyo Train Map to enlarge it.
The simplified train and subway map above has the major train stations in orange, other stations in light blue, with key attractions shown in the purple stars.  The iconic Yamanote Line is an important train line that links all of the main train stations in a loop and it is represented in green.  The Marunouchi Line is an important train line for going east to west, and connects Shinjuku, Ginza, Tokyo Station, and Ikebukuro Station. The subway lines are generally faster than the Yamanote Line for moving long distances, but the Yamanote Line is simpler to access.

Fortunately, most of the major train stations in Tokyo have the same name as their district, so the map above is also a good representation of relative location of the districts to each other.  On the map, you will see that the time it takes to get between stations is show, so the greater the distance, the farther the districts are apart.  Ikebukuro is in the NE corner of Tokyo, just as Shinagawa is in the SW, with Tokyo Station being centrally located in eastern Tokyo.

Districts on the West Side of Central Tokyo are:
  • Ikebukuro - far NW, and you get here by train - don't walk it.
  • Shinjuku and Shibuya - West, and they are close enough to be walkable together, but on the long side - take the train if you can (unless you want to explore).
  • Harajuku and Omotesando are walkable together, with a longer walk to them from Shibuya (take the train to Shibuya in most cases).
Districts on the East Side of Central Tokyo:
  • Ueno - NE - take the train here.
  • Akihabara - North east-ish and north of Tokyo Station.  Take the train here.
  • Tokyo Station (Marunouchi) - East, and pretty much central to many train lines, especially the bullet trains. Imperial Palace East Gardens Access is from here.
  • Ginza - East, and it is a important hub to go to the Skytree and to the other side of town for Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro).  You can walk between Shimbashi, Ginza, and Tokyo Stations.  Odaiba access is via Shimbashi.
  • Skytree is walkable from Asakusa, but take the train from anywhere else.
  • Shinagawa is in the SE corner.

Roppongi is pretty much in the middle by itself.

In the book, the CORE DISTRICTS TO VISIT were:
  • Shinjuku - easily reached by main train lines like Marunouchi, Chuo, Yamanote.
  • Harajuku - Yamanote line, but also walkable from Shinjuku or Shibuya.
  • Omotesando - The Ginza Line.
  • Shibuya - Yamanote Line, Ginza Line.
  • Ginza - Marunouchi, Ginza Line.  Ginza is a major station for heading up towards the Skytree.
When visiting, you should try not to criss-cross the city every day as it burns both money and time.
If you visited Shinjuku twice in one day from Ginza, that is a total of 4 trips on the train, eating up almost 1.5 hours of transit time.  Also, some train connections take much longer than other ones.  For example, taking the Yamanote Line between Shinjuku and Ikebukuro takes 12 minutes, while taking the Marunouchi Line takes 38 minutes as it takes you all the way east to Ginza before it turns and heads NW to Ikebukuro.  Many places can be reached by one train without a transfer, but some places like Roppongi usually require a transfer.

Happy Visits.

Supplements to the Tokyo Stories book
Supplement #1 - Simplified Tokyo Train Map for Tokyo Stories
Supplement #2 - Sights and Experiences Checklist for Tokyo Stories
Get the Tokyo Stories ebook here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Writing and Research for Tokyo Stories

I took the summer off to write a book and have a great trip to BC.  The trip was only okay in the end, but the book writing was completely successful.  I have been blogging about Japanese pop culture and Tokyo for nine years and felt that I could do something that was different and quite substantial for topics I love.  So, in four months, I wrote the book, Tokyo Stories - Visitors' Introduction to the City, with an additional couple of months of editing.

This is a different kind of book about visiting the city as it uses the power of storytelling to teach and entertain.  It is a book that introduces you to modern Tokyo and the Japanese pop culture that makes it so fun to visit.  It gives you a big head start on planning for any visit and easily supplements regular guidebooks and online sources of information.

When writing this book I wanted to use stories to introduce facets about life in Tokyo and places to visit.  I think I succeeded with my fantastical stories set in a modern Tokyo that has pop culture come to life in unexpected ways.  I had ideas for a number of stories, but ended up focusing on just four tales that cover a wide variety of topics.  The stories are all written so that they are gender-less with you as the protagonist, which made for some interesting work too.
The first story in the book, Neko Astray, is a story about helping a lost cat get home.  It is funny how I outlined it and wrote the first two pages of that story, but I never got further than that for over a year.  When I seriously started writing, I managed to get the first draft out in four days, writing it at a Starbucks.  I guess I was finally able to focus on it.  I actually wrote the stories first and then the non-fiction information about Tokyo.  After blogging about Tokyo for so long, the guide parts were not all that hard, it just took time to write.

When researching the non-fiction parts of the book I did some Google Trend searches for what was popular.  I based my book topics on what I thought was important, and what people were searching for.  I was also steering clear of anything related to accommodations, places to eat, nightlife, etc., as these are all better online with Tripadvisor or Google.  Below is a list of topics I checked for that are ranked against each other.

Search Term
Percentage
Places to visit in Tokyo
100
Harajuku
81
Sushi
78
Daiso
78
Ginza
78
Japanese Food
75
Learn Japanese
75
Flights
72
Hotels
71
Shibuya
69
Best time to visit Tokyo
68
Travel
65
Ramen
63
Akihabara
63
Shinjuku
63
Tokyo Station
60
Japanese Idol
57
AKB48
53
Tokyo Tour
48
Tsukiji
48
Skytree
48
Stay
41
Visit
39
Tower
39
Food
36
Robot Restaurant
32
Guide
31
Shinagawa
30
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
28
Robot
26
Odaiba
25
Konbini
23
Don Quijote
23
Subway
21
Shopping
20
Fashion
20
Sakura
19
Narita Express
18
Shrine
15
Imperial Palace
13
Golden Gai
13
Godzilla
12
Kabukicho
11
Dining
10
Omotesando
10
Gundam
8
Godzilla
7
Shiodome
7
Yakitori
6
Must see
5
Cherry Blossoms
3
Souvenirs
3
Highlights
2
Yurakucho
2
Advice or Tips
0
Walks
0

It is kind of an interesting list isn't it?  People really don't care about walking tours, but really want to know about sushi, places to see like Ginza or Harajuku, 100 yen stores, pop idols, tours, ramen, places to stay, and shopping in general.  They are also hunting online for guides to the city, but the topics they look for are spread to the four winds.  I cover most of these topics to some extent in my book, but more from an informational perspective - to give background on these subjects.  As I said earlier, use Google, Tripadvisor, etc., to do the actual lookups.

I also wondered about sales for this e-book.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get rich, but this book represents my love for Tokyo and Japanese pop culture.  This is a big enough reason to write original stories and put to use my knowledge about these two things.


Amazon Sales Rank, June 5, 2018
Book
Sales Rank
Estimated Copies Sold
Across Tokyo
95,626
1 – 2
Super Cheap Japan
50,323
2 – 3
Cool Japan Guide
11,397
5 – 15
A Geek in Japan
49,653
5 – 10 
Lonely Planet Tokyo
12,150
5 – 15
Lonely Planet Japan
4,830
25 – 70
Fodors Japan
63,646
2 – 3
Fodors Tokyo
47,644
3 – 5 
Pretty Good Number One
122,825
< 1
DK Eyewitness Japan
7,519
15 – 25
 
Sales ranking is strange as it is a relative indicator of sales over the day to few days.  The lower the rank, the better your book is selling.  If you haven't sold a book in a long time, your rank will be in the millions.  Selling a few copies when your sales are low can make your rank jump in the tens of thousands or a hundred thousand.  I picked a selection of guidebooks about Japan and recorded their sales ranks one day.  I found many different sets of numbers making sense of the rankings online, so these are just my educated guesses for the sales of these ebooks.  Basically, some guidebooks sell okay as ebooks, but others sell very slowly with one or two sales every few days.  If I'm lucky I'll sell a copy every few days.  I'm pricing the book in the range of $2.99 - $4.99, the price of a latte, so I hope people find the pricing reasonable.

The ebook is now available on Amazon Canada and USA.  More information about the book can be found here.