Misuse of the word Mecca is a pet peeve of mine, but when author Gianni Simone describes Tokyo as a Mecca of otaku culture in his book Tokyo Geek’s Guide, I find myself agreeing. The fervor with which anime and manga fans spread their fandom is akin to religious evangelism. The schism between Final Fantasy fanatics and Dragon Quest diehards for example, is as real to gamers as the protestant reformation. Like Mecca or Jerusalem, Tokyo welcomes hundreds of thousands of zealous pilgrims every year, eager to step foot in their own sort of holy land. But knowledge of the Quran won’t help you find a hotel in Mecca；Likewise an intimate knowledge of Evangelion isn’t going to help you navigate the maze that is Tokyo. One needs a guidebook, and otaku enthusiasts need look no further than Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More by Gianni Simone.
The clean and easy-to-read design flows more like a magazine than a travel guide, with bright and colorful photos, and eye-catching layouts, yet Simone goes into a surprising amount of depth. More than just a list of places to see and things to do, Simone provides fascinating tidbits of trivia, history and cultural insight such as how Akihabara evolved from a hub for radio enthusiasts to the modern day gamer haven it has become. Or how the first maid cafe was a promotional campaign for a popular 90s dating sim. Did you know that Harajuku used to quarter ninjas? Ever wonder who coined the term Cosplay? Simone draws on meticulous research and nearly 25 years of experience living in Japan to provide nearly encyclopedic knowledge about all things Tokyo and Geek.
Tokyo Geek’s Guide is a very practical tool for anyone seeking to see as much of the city as possible, with suggested walking routes, station guides and step-by-step instructions. The book breaks the city down into zones like West Tokyo, and further into individual neighborhoods including several off-the-beaten-path. Alternatively, you can navigate the book by category, such as where to eat, or where the best shopping is for various geek necessities.
As a long time resident of Japan and frequent visitor to Tokyo, I still found many things that I had never heard of before, and rekindled an excitement I haven’t felt in a long time. Tokyo Geek’s Guide is highly recommended both for first-time visitors and lifers alike. Simone, a correspondent for Vogue Italia and contributor to The Japan Times not only exploits his deep knowledge of Tokyo, but has a knack for explaining why you should care.