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Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan


Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan

While Japanese manga, anime and games (from Wii to MMPORGS)
seem to be taking over our pop culture horizon, more and more fans
want to visit Japan. Some things will be familiar, or at least
recognizable, like crowded subway cars, vending machines and
celebrating New Year's. When you travel somewhere new, however,
it's the differences that you remember, such as the fact that
during rush hour the subway has a women-only car to defeat
potential gropers, that the vending machines offer five kinds of
tea but rarely soda, and that the New Year's Festival features a
week off, lucky beans and cleaning house instead of sparklers and a
midnight countdown.

This book is part travelogue, part comic and all about the
celebration of being a geek in Japan. Aimee, a six-foot-tall gaijin
(or Westerner) and her traveling companions don't miss the chance
to see the ancient temples of Kyoto or to be dressed and
photographed as an apprentice geisha (or maiko), but the real
reason behind their trip is pure, unadulterated fandom. Aimee
herself writes a column on ball-jointed dolls, a hobby steadily
growing in the U.S., and is exhilarated that she's invited to meet
the head of VOLKS, the ball-jointed doll company of choice, at
their largest store.

With her unabashed love for manga and anime, Tokyo is fan heaven.
Aimee and her friends take off to Ikekuboro, the female otaku (or
obsessed fan) destination in Tokyo with entire stores devoted to
anime, manga, merchandise, cell phone stickers and detailed toy
figures. They swoon at the glam, melodramatic performaces of the
Takarazuka Revue, the legendary all-female theater troupe complete
with teen idols and fan clubs. They even rent a private karaoke
room and sing their cheeseball hearts out.

The entire trip is told through moments, like discovering that the
snack clearly marked “cheese” in the train station is
not just cheese (you don't want to know what else was in there).
Then there's the dilemma of trying to figure out how to urinate
gracefully when the stall barely reaches up to your neck and the
toilet is of Asian design. Steinberger's art is note-perfect:
adorable without being saccharine and deftly conveying everything
from serene Buddhas to gobsmacked expressions.

Any traveler ready to set foot in Japan (or anyone who's dreaming
of temples and hot baths while piling up their pennies for a future
trip) owes it to herself to check out this affectionate, wry and
entertaining picture of one girl's trip of a lifetime.


Reviewed by Robin Brenner on October 18, 2011

Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan
by Aimee Major Steinberger

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2007
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Go! Comi
  • ISBN-10: 1933617837
  • ISBN-13: 9781933617831