Here’s a Handy Head Start on Tokyo

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Dec 07, 2017

In Japan’s capital, serene Zen gardens coexist with the sensory overload of Shinjuku’s neon lights. Get ready for the city to both perplex and delight. By Hazel Flynn.

Read

Florent Chavouet’s 2009 book, Tokyo on Foot, is still of interest today because the author is 
an artist with an eye for quirky details who captures what 
he sees in charming drawings and whimsical notes. This 
isn’t a guidebook but a timeless “graphic memoir” of people and neighbourhoods discovered over six months of exploring. (Note the paperback is easier 
to pore over than the e-book.)

Also consider...
The Devotion of Suspect X (2005): Keigo Higashino’s thriller about an awkward maths genius, his single-mother neighbour and the death of 
her abusive ex-husband was 
a phenomenon in Japan, 
selling two million copies. Sparely written but intricately plotted, it will keep you 
guessing right to the end.

Watch

In the satirical drama Tokyo Sonata (2008), a middle-class family splinters after the father loses his job but is too ashamed to tell his wife and sons. It’s the younger boy’s secret gift for piano that offers solace as this Cannes prize winner builds 
to its moving finale.

Also consider...
Tampopo (1985): A joyful mix 
of offbeat comedy, heartfelt romance, food obsession, violence and unabashed 
M-rated (albeit creative) eroticism, this cult favourite was described by its director 
as a “ramen western”.
Godzilla (1954): The special effects look hokey now but Japan’s postwar trauma is clear in the iconic radioactive-monster movie. Seek out the restored original and avoid 
the Americanised 1956 version.

Listen

Ryuichi Sakamoto has been making music for more than 
40 years, first with pioneering techno band Yellow Magic Orchestra then as a solo artist and collaborator. He is also the Oscar-winning composer of film soundtracks, including Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983) and The Revenant (2015). The album Playing the Piano (2009) is a powerful solo acoustic reworking of a dozen of his best-
loved pieces.

Also consider...
Akogare (2016): You don’t have to know Japanese to enjoy this melodic, upbeat single from indie rock quartet Mitsume.
Pick Me Up (2015): J-pop, Japan’s homegrown cousin 
to Korea’s K-pop, is powered 
by young things who look adorable while singing and dancing in perfect unison. Google the clip of this hit 
from girl group Perfume.

 SEE ALSO: What Not to Do in Tokyo – and What to Do Instead