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Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan

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Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger, published by Go! Comi

Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan

©2007 Aimee Major Steinberger

The Bottom Line

Animator, cosplayer, doll collector and self-proclaimed "tall girl" Aimee Major Steinberger took a dream trip to Japan and brought back a special souvenir: Her travel diary. In Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan, Steinberger uses sketches and hand-written descriptions to illustrate the things, big and small, that made her trip so memorable and fun.

Sure, it can be a little girly and a little geeky too, but Japan Ai is a witty, warm and charming love letter to Japanese pop culture that will inspire most readers to experience the joys of Japan for themselves.

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Pros

  • A charming, witty travel diary filled with cultural notes and lots of "only-in-Japan" moments
  • A mix of color and black and white sketches that capture the fun of three girls on tour
  • Includes additional info and addresses, so readers can visit the places mentioned in the book
  • A fun otaku-centric view of Japan that you usually don't see in other travel books

Cons

  • Kind of girly, so it may be less interesting to readers who prefer manlier fare
  • Book has lots of color illustrations, but I'd love to see more

Description

  • Author & Artist: Aimee Major Steinberger
  • Publisher: Go! Comi (US)
  • ISBN: 978-1-933617-83-1
  • Cover Price: $16.99 US
  • Age Rating: T – Teens Age 13+ for references to cross-dressing
    More about content ratings.
  • Book Genres:
    • Art and Illustration
    • Cosplay
    • Japanese Culture
    • Travel
  • US Publication Date: December 2007
  • Book Description: 180 pages, color and black and white illustrations
  • More About Japan Ai by Aimee Major Steinberger:

Guide Review - Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan

Is it a comic book? Is it a travel book? Is it a guide to Japanese pop culture? Yes, yes, and yes. Aimee Major Steinberger's Japan Ai is all this and more. "Ai" means "love" in Japanese, and it's obvious that Steinberger just adores everything about Japanese culture. From her excursion to a hot springs resort to a shopping spree in a Harajuku, readers can sense her giddy delight on every page.

Sure, there are the stereotypical observations that most gaijin (foreigners) travelers make about Japan, like the crowded trains and the odd food. What makes Japan Ai so unique is Steinberger's insights about some obscure bits of Japanese pop culture like Takarazuka Theater, cosplay and ball-jointed dolls. To her credit, Steinberger explains the background of these phenomenon and their appeal to fans beyond the usual "Gee, isn't Japan weird?" commentary.

And that's the difference between Japan Ai and less personal travel books. Steinberger is not just a stranger looking at Japan from the outside. As an anime fan, gamer, cosplayer and devoted collector of ball-jointed dolls, she's already made a deep dive into the culture, and while immersed in it, she tells her readers, "Come on in, the water's fine."

A mild disclaimer: Japan Ai's content can be kind of femme-focused. This shouldn't stop male readers from enjoying it too, but if you've got a strong aversion to girly-girl stuff like dolls, frilly clothes and shopping, this book may not be your thing.

As part of her diary, Steinberger helpfully provides addresses and Web site URLs of the places she visited, so fellow travelers can follow in her footsteps. If reading Japan Ai doesn't make you want to book a ticket to Tokyo tomorrow, check your pulse, because your spirit of adventure is dead. Even if you never leave home, this delightful book is the next best thing to a trip to Japan.

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