I very rarely support crowdfunding projects but ebooks are usually a draw as otherwise I will forget all about it and forget to buy one when it’s published. I’ve been browsing the Tokyo Cheapo site for a while now and they have a lot of great articles on doing Japan on the cheap and free event listings so I figured a book would be a good read. It arrived recently so here’s my thoughts on whether you should pick up a copy, plus I have a code for you to get $5 off.
First off, this is a cheapo’s guide and they barely stray from that subject at all, and stay firmly in the Tokyo area. Unless you’re a backpacker passing through Tokyo on a longer trip, or have a stopover on your flight home, you won’t want to rely solely on this guide unless you really have no plans to splurge at your favourite shops and restaurants, stay in a nice hotel, take a trip out to another city, or visit some of the bigger tourist destinations – for example, the Sky Tree only gets a couple of tiny mentions. However, it does do the cheapo thing excellently and includes some great tips that every traveler can learn from.
The guide is a massive 531 pages and set out well with a chapter on each of the big areas, with maps and highlights for shopping, eating, staying, clubbing and things to do, plus separate sections on all those and more. The ebook is full of links to other parts of the guide and to online articles and sites, so much so that it can be difficult to find somewhere to press to get to the next page, especially if you’re on a Kindle with the basic superslow browser. On an iPhone or iPad, this will be a great help while you’re planning things to do. You can also tell that all their suggestions are based on personal experience and include ratings for price and quality, plus addresses and Google map links.
The restaurant section has taken quite a load off my mind – since my next trip is a solo one, eating out is something I have been stressing a little about, but there are loads of options listed where you can get a quick affordable meal and try out all your favourite types of Japanese cuisine without breaking the bank, eating every meal from the konbini or being stuck on your lonesome trying to figure out a menu.
The museum and gardens section is also extensive and includes lots of free options, plus tips on events and festivals to visit. I hadn’t heard of the Grutt Pass, which gives you free entry and discounts to hundreds of museums, and will definitely be adding that to my list.
There are also sections for whatever else you might be interested in doing in Tokyo, including temples, hiking, clubbing, izakayas, otaku culture and weird stuff so there’s something for everyone.
The shopping section is less successful – it’s ideal if you’re looking to spend as little as possible, but those of us who are saving up a whole separate budget to spend on all things Japanese will need to do our own research. The hotels section is also only useful if you’re looking for hostels and info on capsule hotels and overnight manga cafes. The visiting with kids section is basically a long advert for the author’s own book on the subject. I also found the suggestions in general are aimed at a certain section of young people (young men, even) so if your interests are more towards things like kawaii, crafts and traditional culture, rather than clubbing, meeting new people and having weird experiences with robots and maid cafes, you won’t find as much to add to your itinerary.
As a backer, I received both the ebook and PDF editions and, while the ebook is much easier for me to read through on the Kindle, the formatting was pretty crazy with gigantic titles and some sections that seemed to be repeated in full so I’m glad to have the PDF too for easier reference and printouts when planning my trip, plus all the maps and many photos in full colour.
Overall, I would definitely recommend adding this to your library if you’re planning (or dreaming about) a trip to Tokyo, but if you’ll also need to pick up some other guides or do research online to fill in areas like shopping and sightseeing, depending on your interests. I found there’s very little crossover with my own Tokyo Shopping Guide and the itinerary I’ve been building for my next trip. I’ll certainly be going ahead with my plans to publish that, hopefully early next year, so that you can all benefit from my research too.
You can buy the Tokyo Cheapo book online for $15 as either a PDF or ebook and if you use the code LASERCATZ444 before the end of September you’ll get $5 off!