#Book Review – Uniquely Japan; A. Denson

Japanese culture is so rich it’s hard to remain unaffected, and that’s the idea behind this book. Abby Denson, the author of two travel guides centered on both Tokyo and Japan, is back with a new guide—with a spin. 


Lavishly decorated manhole covers, pink polka-dotted backhoes, toilets with warmable seats, blow dryers (and other bells and whistles). It’s just another day in Japan, where the futuristic and zany stands side-by-side with the rooted and the venerable, and there’s a festival going on somewhere almost every day of the year.

In Uniquely Japan, Abby Denson—author of Cool Japan Guide and Cool Tokyo Guide—uses her own personal drawings and photos to highlight the things that make Japan truly different from every other place on the planet. From the ramen and sushi we’ve all come to love to the fantastic creatures who now star in their own video games and anime, the comic artist takes you on a romp through Japan’s distinctive popular and traditional culture.

128 pages
Non-fiction, travel
Tuttle Publishing


Cover: It’s cute. Good color palette, as it’s very bright and it fits the theme. Thumbs up.


  • What a cool little concept book! Uniquely Japan is the travel guide you wouldn’t expect, full of drawings and personal pictures. There’s something liberating about breaking the status quo just to reinvent it, which is what Denson does here. She takes the ‘think outside the box’ advice a step further, something I really appreciate.
  • The drawings themselves are whimsical, comic-style. It’s a bold choice, one that strays from the beaten path. On a personal level, I’m saying it’s what turns Uniquely Japan into a small gem. 
  • I like the extensive variety of themes. From food to fashion, from stamps to technology, every chapter offers a glimpse of Japanese culture. The dichotomy expressed in the blurb, the one about different elements coexisting, is the central topic here, addressed in every page.
  • A well-paced prose and a good editing complete the package. Points for keeping the written parts informative and yet unobtrusive. 

Special mention:

  • Calligraphy
  • Manhole covers (I mean it!)
  • Kimonos
  • Ritual basins
  • Woodblock prints
  • Torii Gate


  • The peculiarity of Uniquely Japan is both its strongest and weakest point. The whimsical style might not be everyone’s cup of tea—it all boils down on what kind of guide you prefer.


4 stars on GR.

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