Is there a sadder time than Summer 2020 to be reviewing a Tokyo travel book?
Tokyo: Day by Day: 365 Things to See and Do! was originally scheduled to be published at a time when millions of tourists were planning trips contingent on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But then the pandemic happened. Now, with no Olympics, and (for Americans like me) not even the chance of a plane ticket, this guide is the closest most readers will get to visiting Japan’s vibrant capital city this year. Fortunately, this book of bite-sized travel tidbits is one way to take the edge off of your wanderlust until you’re able to visit the city for real.
See also: 10 Tips For Traveling To Japan From A First-Timer
Rather than a typical travel book format that categorizes city highlights by location or interests, Tokyo: Day by Day is organized around the calendar, with a different sightseeing suggestion for every day of the year. Some of the 365 suggestions are closely tied to the seasons, like October’s annual ramen festival or the midwinter suggestion to check out the Christmas lights at Yomiuri Land. Others, like the chinchilla cafe or a scenic Mount Fuji vista, would make excellent itineraries close to year-round. Each day, I’ve been opening up the book to today’s date to see what I might be doing if I were able to visit Tokyo. Last Friday (July 10), I could have been devouring an eight-tier rainbow soft-serve. As they say in Tokyo, ii na.
Publisher Viz Media has been marketing Tokyo: Day by Day as “Instagrammable.” I can see where that description would come from: these precise square images of food, fun, and gorgeous scenery really do look like they were pulled from a curated social feed. I also suspect that some of the recommendations are handpicked by how enviable they would look on your Insta rather than how much fun they would actually be. At a time when the question of visiting Japan is moot, I’m enjoying paging through the lovely photos. But behind that cute photo of a cafe sweet may be an overpriced dessert that puts style over taste.
See also: The Unexpected Akihabara: 7 Destinations Beyond The Main Strip
Originally published in Japanese and translated into English, this guide maintains a whimsical Tokyoite demeanor. It feels like the scrapbook of a local trendsetter: the photos are the main event, but the brief descriptions and bulleted footnotes have the feel of a personal recommendation. And that is what makes this guide different—it’s about evoking a specific Tokyo feeling more than it is about giving you the facts. This is 2020: you can Google any of these suggestions if you’re serious. The book itself is just planting travel ideas in your head.
Tokyo: Day by Day: 365 Things to See and Do! is published by Viz Media. It retails for around $24.99 as a paperback and $16.99 as a digital copy.