As an expat who has lived in my adopted city of Tokyo for the past fifteen years, I am always fascinated by other people's perception of Japan-- Tokyo in particular. Apparently, Tokuhashi shares my interest and decided to explore this topic through the stories of the people who were willing to talk to him.
In the prologue, Tokuhashi mentions that he had lived in a small town in California for a short time and realized how much of Japanese culture had already penetrated America - Hondas and Toyotas running along the freeway, Panasonic or Sony stereos in people's homes, kids playing video games on Nintendo, the popularity of anime such as Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Dragonball.
But then his roommate would ask him questions like, "Do you speak Chinese?", "What color are the signal lights in Japan", "Are there really more bicycles than there are cars?" Tokuhashi thought if these questions cropped up in a state like California with a large second generation Japanese population and a lot of Asian exchange students, then probably this indicated that the majority of Americans really know nothing about his home country.
With his experience in America, Tokuhashi decided it would be a great idea to let Americans and other foreigners know what the "Now" of Japan is like. But introducing Japan from a Japanese perspective would probably not attract anybody's notice. This is where Tokuhashi had his epiphany. Why not have foreigners living in Tokyo tell their own stories? Why did they choose to live in Tokyo and how do they perceive the city?
Tokuhashi then set up a website called "My Eyes Tokyo" in which he interviewed foreigners living in Tokyo and then spread the stories around the world in English. This book is a small compilation of some of those interviews. The book shares the stories of people from countries such as Senegal, Turkey, Bolivia, Israel, France, Algeria, as well as the United States.
Their stories are vast and varied. There is the Algerian who owns and runs a Japanese soba shop. A Frenchman who owns and runs a Japanese specialty tea shop. A Turkish man who performs rakugo. A Brit who sets up an International Theatre Troupe. An American who launches the first Food Bank in Japan. Also featured are musicians and singer-songwriters.
Tokuhashi's idea is to show the "now" of Tokyo as seen by the expat community, believing that they probably see things that the normal Japanese either takes for granted or has just plain forgotten about. The interviewees all seem to share the opinion that the younger generation of Japanese don't know how great their country is.
As one of the many who have decided to live here, I can tell you there is more to Tokyo than just karaoke, anime, or electronics! Trust me, and if you ever make it to Tokyo, I will gladly be your unofficial guide.~by Ernie Hoyt