Review: Tokyo: Capital of Cool


What does it mean to be cool? Composed, self-controlled, desirable, positive, hip? Ironically detached, stress-free, trendy, autonomous, laid-back, right on, agreeable, calm, with it, assured, in the know, OK? Distinctive, becoming, together, relaxed, liberated, easy-going, new, sharp, powerful, non-establishment, turned on, deliberate, knowing, self-confident, haughty, inscrutable, popular, hot, esoteric, groovy, modern, striking, chic, aspirational, nuanced, precise, savvy? Culturally influential, iconographic, mystic, all the rage, alive, big, imperturbable, artistic, nonchalant, now, plugged in, fashionable, chill, erudite, dignified, sophisticated, stylish, aloof, dispassionate, relaxed, decent, cray-cray, detached, current?

Then how are we to receive the fact that The Washington Post has referred to Tokyo as ‘Japan’s Empire of Cool’?

Rob Goss’s vivid and engaging Tokyo: Capital of Cool is a kaleidoscopic treatise on what it means for that great Asian capital to be considered Cool. Bursts of colorful narrative and imagery display the varied districts of the teeming city and convey the truth of the volume’s jacket copy: “Tokyo is a multifaceted city of mesmerizing and often bewildering contrasts and contradictions.”

Within, the reader will see the full and rich panoply that is today’s Tokyo: immersive neon, kimonos, robots, woodblock prints, high fashion, fireworks, temples, up-to-the-second electronics, noodle stalls, ultramodern architecture, fish markets, shimmering skylines, ancient gardens, rivers, buddhas, bullet trains, pagodas, markets, bridges, rickshaws, cherry blossoms, sushi and yakatori, revered elderly and trendy youth, long-observed traditions and the ever-becoming future. This book is compelling testament to the fact that throughout the last 70 years, Tokyo has propelled itself from the debilitated aftermath of war to become one of the planet’s most forward-striving cities. It also displays the city’s continual reach for tomorrow’s wonders, as it preserves with appropriate reverence many features from centuries of Japan’s past.

The book is comprised of six chapters, with the first offering an introduction to the city and some of the history, demographics, economy and culture that has helped shape it. Each of the five successive chapters then guide the reader throughout the various regional districts of Tokyo and its outskirts. Chapters are structured as photo essays on particular locales, and are accompanied by detailed full-color way-finding maps. Major roadway and transit arteries are depicted, with stations, landmarks and major orientation features noted. Most of the plentiful photographs bear lengthy captions that describe subjects in rich detail.

Author Rob Goss has resided in Japan since 1999, and has written numerous pieces about Japan for scores of magazines, books and newspapers around the globe, including National Geographic Traveler and Time. His award-winning Tuttle Travel Pack Japan is available from this same publisher.

Tokyo: Capital of Cool is a hardcover book in square format, 8.25” x 8.25” x 0.625”, and consists of 120 full-color glossy pages. Its numerous color photographs and richly detailed orientation maps are interwoven with thoughtful and informative narrative.

The book is published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd., of Clarendon, VT and Singapore, and is available in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Japan from Tuttle Publishing and its affiliates.

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