Book review: Tune in Tokyo by Tim Anderson

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Everyone wants to escape their boring, stagnant lives full of inertia and regret. But so few people actually have the bravery to run – run away from everything and selflessly seek out personal fulfillment on the other side of the world where they don’t understand anything and won’t be expected to. The world is full of cowards. Tim Anderson was pushing thirty and working a string of dead-end jobs when he made the spontaneous decision to pack his bags and move to Japan. It was a gutsy move, especially for a tall, white, gay Southerner who didn’t speak a lick of Japanese. But his life desperately needed a shot of adrenaline, and what better way to get one than to leave behind his boyfriend, his cat, and his Siouxsie and the Banshees box set to move to “a tiny, overcrowded island heaving with clever, sensibly proportioned people who make him look fat”? In Tokyo, Tim became a “gaijin,” an outsider whose stumbling progression through Japanese culture is minutely chronicled in these sixteen hilarious stories. Despite the steep learning curve and the seemingly constant humiliation, the gaijin from North Carolina gradually begins to find his way. Whether playing drums on the fly in an otherwise all-Japanese noise band or attempting to keep his English classroom clean when it’s invaded by an older female student with a dirty mind, Tim comes to realize that living a meaningful life is about expecting the unexpected…right when he least expects it.

-excerpt from Amazon

As a huge fan of Japanese culture and comedic(-ish) autobiographies (with Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened in my top five favourite books of all time. Probably.), Tune in Tokyo by Tim Anderson would seem to be just what I’m looking for, and it does. Mostly.

Anderson’s writing is light and breezy, without much convoluted language. His pacing is pretty good. The book is split into different chapters that centre around different events and/or different aspects of living an Anglo-Japanese life and the length of each one is just about right. The anecdotes don’t drag on too long and his writing is witty enough to not let any chapter become a drag at any point in time.

He’s pretty funny too, with a lot of wry, deadpan (well, literary deadpan) quips and paragraphic punchlines.

Still, the book isn’t perfect.

Even though the chapters are packed a-quip-a-minute and the writing mostly funny, they occasionally feel a bit contrived or like he’s trying too hard to find something funny to say about the situation. There are also times where sentences run on a tad too long (which, coming from someone who writes paragraph-long sentences, says quite a bit) that, while not detracting from the reading experience per se, does slow down the reading rhythm a tad and makes it less smooth.

Overall, though, Tune in Tokyo makes  for an enjoyable, quick read and is definitely worth a go, especially for amateur Japanophiles. Or if you just enjoy reading about someone’s awkward, embarrassing hijinks in a foreign culture.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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