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Book Review: Tabloid Tokyo, compiled by Mark Schreiber

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Japan conjures up different images for different people. Some view it as a technological leader, the country that gave birth to SONY, Honda, and Nintendo. Others think of Japan as an exotic place to visit, with cities such as Kyoto still steeped in rich history and culture. Young people may think of Japan in terms of pop culture — those kids sure love their anime and manga. But there's another side to Japan, one that few foreigners see. It's the deep, depraved, seedy underbelly of the country, the part that causes tongues to cluck disapprovingly but speak of in excited whispers. I'm talking about the wild, wacky side of Japan – and I don't mean televised Japanese variety shows.

Tabloid Tokyo: 101 Tales of Sex, Crime, and the Bizarre from Japan's Wild Weeklies is a compilation of stories that were originally translated for the English-language newspapers The Japan Times and the Mainichi Daily News (online version). In turn, these papers obtain these stories from various Japanese gossip rags. The stories are written in a casual, tongue-in-cheek manner, reminiscent of American 1940's tabloids: "Keep it hush hush!"

In Tabloid Tokyo, the stories are grouped according to category. Not surprisingly, the first chapter features stories of a sexual nature. After all, tales of depraved sexual acts and people getting caught in uncompromising positions are juicy news. Other chapters focus on crime, family life, and fashion. The last chapter is merely titled "Tabloid Fodder" and contains stories that are so bizarre that they didn't fit in any particular category.

What can you expect from Tabloid Tokyo? Here's a sample (list is from the back of the book):

  • Men who fall in love with their latex companions
  • A rapist who targeted the suicidal via the web
  • An investigative reporter who predicted his own death
  • A "diplomat" who bared her breasts to the North Koreans

Tabloid Tokyo is a fun, easy read for anyone — expatriates, former expatriates (like myself), or just curious people — who want to read about a different side of Japan.

By the way, if you crave more crazy tales about Japan, have no fear. Tabloid Tokyo 2 is slated for release on September 15.

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