Clueless in Tokyo by Betty Reynolds

Clueless in Tokyo

Clueless in Tokyo: An Explorer’s Sketchbook of Weird and Wonderful Things in Japan is the second book in the series that I read after Squeamish about Sushi by the same author.

Once again, the illustration was always a joy to look at and the little things were fascinating to learn.

For example, the instruction on how to drink Japanese tea:

  1. admire bowl
  2. turn bowl clockwise 180 degree so the sacred spot faces away from you
  3. slurp your tea to show appreciation
  4. clean the rim with a cloth
  5. turn bowl back counterclockwise 180 deg
  6. admire bowl again

A few random facts that I took note of:

  • Sumo grand champion’s ceremonial rope weighs 15 kilos
  • You can rent a protest truck, get  behind a microphone and blast your views around Tokyo
  • Taxi’s doors open and close automatically
  • Whole squads of gas station attendants hoot and hollar to welcome you like in restaurants
  • When you order food for delivery, you leave the dirty dishes out of your front door after eating. It will be picked up by the restaurant in the morning.

And a few items of interest (or shock!) in Japan:

  • Batteries vending machine
  • Porn vending machine that’s hidden behind metallic curtain at daytime and exposed at night
  • Condom vending machine that categorizes the condoms by blood type
  • Schoolgirls’ used panties vending machine (eewww.. WHERE did they get those?!)

When I reviewed Squeamish About Sushi I didn’t get a chance to take pictures (or was just assuming that I could steal some pictures from the net, but apparently I couldn’t find any), but this time I did! So here I present you a few pages from the book: (taken in a train on the way to work with my iPhone, so pardon me for somewhat mediocre quality photos..)

Clueless in Tokyo
The famous complicated Japanese toilet buttons

Clueless in Tokyo
Japanese chick attire

Clueless in Tokyo
Japanese masks

Are pictures really worth a thousand words?

4.5 stars
1997, 48 pp

Squeamish about Sushi by Betty Reynolds

Squeamish About SushiSqueamish About Sushi: And other Food Adventures in Japan is an illustrated “guide book” to eating in Japan. Delightfully drawn and colored in water color pencil, it shows various situations that you may find in Japan, from eating in a restaurant, Japanese style inn (ryokan), to Sumo stadium. From cherry-blossom (sakura) viewing, street food at festivals and traditional market.

Each item is named by its Japanese name in romanji (alphabet) and hiragana/katakana, which is great whether you’ve learned Japanese characters or not. So it acts like a visual dictionary, if you will. Most items are food, including various types of sushi, bento (rice box), yakitori (grilled food on a stick), shabu-shabu (cook your own soup), and more. I literally drooled inside my mouth when looking at the illustrations. I love Japanese food!

More interesting bits include guide to going to toilet in restaurant (change your restaurant slipper–which is given when you enter the restaurant– to toilet slipper before going into the bathroom), guide to using the complex buttons on the toilet bowl (recommended not to use if you’re not sure how), and guide to taking a bath at ofuro (the public bath).

I am quite familiar with Japanese food and culture, so most of the things weren’t really new to me, but I still learned a few things here and there (perhaps about 30% was new to me). I have also just visited South Korea in October last year, and found that it has many similarities with Japan. One in particular is the onsen which is very similar with the one in Japan. I absolutely loved it! Okay so some people found it uncomfortable to walk around in the locker room naked and to take shower/bath in communal place, but I somehow liked that they’re totally comfortable with it. After about 15 minutes it kinda felt natural to me too. The experience was one of the most memorable of any of my foreign trips. I even went to the onsen twice when I was there, because once was just not enough! (I plan to write about the whole onsen experience, but I’ll keep it for later so I don’t sidetrack too much.)

Too bad I’ve already returned the book to the library, so I can’t show you more pictures (couldn’t find more on the internet). But I’ve borrowed another book by Betty Reynolds titled Clueless in Tokyo, which has the same format. So I hope to show you more from that book soon.

4.5 stars
2000, 72 pp

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