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Book Review: Metropolis Pictorial: Stepping Into The Yards Of Japan


Title: Metropolis Pictorial: Stepping into the Yards of Japan Author: Tan Qi Rong
Genre: Photography, Travel
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: 25th April 2012
Goodreads Summary: This picture book serve as an appetizer to Tokyo, one of the best places to visit! It shows some of my personal favorites with stops in two unique bars. Relive the place through this pictorial buffet . . . intended to wet your appetite for more. Incredibly satisfying experience awaits you so… Take time off and start embarking on a journey to enjoy the beauty of nature in Japan!

Book Review

I’m still going through books that I’ve discovered at the back of bookshelf and Metropolis Pictorial is one of them. I won this book back in 2012 from the Goodreads First Reads programme and I’d completely forgotten about it until now.

Metropolis Pictorial is a photography and travel book that consists of full page photos of some of Tokyo’s top sites. Each photo is labelled with some including short, but detailed, information about what makes each place special, how to get there, how to book tickets (if needed) and when the best time to visit is.

I guess what’s so good about this short book is its simplicity. This is essentially a picture book with little captions here and there telling you what to look out for in Tokyo. All of the photos were taken on an iPhone 4S, nothing fancy, but I guess that’s part of the appeal. This book is designed to give people a look at the real Toyko, what the sights look like to the average visitor and not what they look like in the fancy brochure or the website. Expect to see photos of market stalls as well as beautiful temples, there’s a wide range of photos so you can see what Tokyo at its best is really like.

When I think of Tokyo, I think of a busy city where you’ll see the latest and most high-tech gadgets in the world and a lot of sushi shops. Yes, that is based on a stereotype but without having ever been to Japan, I doubt many people would be able to give a better description than that. What’s brilliant about this little book is that it in probably just 5 or 10 minutes of your time you can get a quick glimpse at what Japan is like from the eyes of someone Japanese. Many of the places to see are tourist destinations, but the photographer has pointed out the best bits of them and how to really take advantage of them. As he is a native Japanese man, I trust his opinions far more than those on travel websites.

I must admit that the photo quality does vary quite a lot and sometimes you’re presented with a stunning photo that reinstalls your faith in Apple’s over-priced products, but at other times you’ll find yourself looking at a slightly grainy photo of something seemingly insignificant. I guess the photo quality reflects what the book is trying to get across – the reality of Tokyo and not some sort of perfect facade that has been painted by a tourism company.

What is a little disappointing is that the grammar of the captions and info/tips at the bottom of each photo is often incorrect. It’s obvious what the author means but it’s also obvious that he is not a native British person. This is something that would be quite easy to correct so I’m not sure why the author didn’t get someone with better English to check his work over. This didn’t really detract from my reading experience as it’s not as if this is a work of prose but it is an unnecessary fault that didn’t need to be there.

This book is currently priced at £13.38 on Amazon and whilst I would highly recommend it to anyone curious about seeing the ‘real’ Japan or future travellers to the East, I definitely wouldn’t pay that price for it. This book is interesting and informative for tourists in Japan but it’s something that I’d flick through for ideas and not something I’d rely on. This book appears to be self-published which would explain the high price but unfortunately I don’t think this book is worth the money.

All in all, Metropolis Pictorial gives an insight into Japan from the eyes of a native Japanese person and is a real eye opener for the Western tourist. It is helpful in picking out a few key spots to visit in Japan that are perhaps unknown and it gives you the necessary information to find out more and book tickets. That said, it is a very pricey book for what it gives you. At the end of the day it is nothing more than a few pictures with interesting captions so as long as this book remains as expensive as it is now, I wouldn’t recommend buying it.

If you liked the sound of this, check out these books:
The Travelling Cat Chronicles

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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