The Monocle Book of Japan, a culmination of years of reporting across the country by Monocle (a magazine covering global affairs, business, culture, design), is a gold-gilded coffee table treat. If book publishing was pageantry, Monocle would undoubtedly deserve a title. 

Profiling hundreds of locations, businesses and landmarks, The Monocle Book of Japan gives cheerful introductions to the many tourist sites of the Japanese archipelago. Unique architecture and marvels of human ingenuity are given spotlights in snapshots and anecdotes from a team of writers and photographers with an eye for artistic composition and lighting. 

Alongside astonishing photographs of some of the world’s most imaginative architectural designs are explanations about the historical precedent of craftsmanship in Japanese businesses and industries that have earned international recognition for excellence. From giving accolades to Japanese cinema and animation studios to acknowledgments of the efficient professionalism of those responsible for the operation of the Shinkansen, this collection of reporting investigates the ins and outs of life and business in contemporary Japan. Even domestic pet trends are topics of interest, making the book an eclectic collection of facts and reviews. 

The Monocle Book of Japan might be useful to plan a vacation, make business plans, or write a school report due to the writing teams’ attention to detail. Despite the focus on visual depictions of Japan, the writing is practical and journalistic. The writers work together to sustain a thoughtful, positive tone and cohesive style throughout multiple sections, delineating Japan’s unique approach to social and technological advancements. 

Near the end of the book, the writing team flashes their personalites by drawing attention to locations they personally enjoy. The effect of the cohesive writing effort means that the book comes across as a mixture of expert investigation and glowing review. No topic is neglected, and no image is lackluster. Instead, The Monocle Book of Japan is the kind of book that reminds people why they love the feel and smell of paper. Images of places like the Church of Light, a chapel in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, give the reader a desire to pull someone close, point, and say, “Isn’t this breathtaking? I want to go there.” It is a book that inspires a childlike fascination with form, light, and the human minds that create civilizations around us. At the same time, it satisfies academic curiosity by giving credit where credit is due for every invention, design, and business mentioned. Each page could inspire hours of research and discovery, or it could inspire an adventurous trip.

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