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Tokyo: A Certain Style [Paperback]

Kyoichi Tsuzuki
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 15 1999
Ah, think of the serene gardens, tatami mats, Zen-inspired decor, sliding doors, and shoji screens of the typical Japanese home. Think again. Tokyo: A Certain Style, the mini-sized decor book with a difference, shows how, for those living in one of the worlds most expensive and densely packed metropolises, closet-sized apartments stacked to the ceiling with gadgetry and CDs are the norm. Photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki rode his scooter all over Tokyo snapping shots of how urban Japanese really live. Hundreds of photographs reveal the real Tokyo style: microapartments, mini and modular everything, rooms filled to the rafters with electronics, piles of books and clothes, clans of remote controls, collections of sundry objets all crammed into a space where every inch counts. Tsuzuki introduces each tiny crash pad with a brief text about who lives there, from artists and students to professionals and couples with children. His entertaining captions to the hundreds of photographs capture the spirit and ingenuity required to live in such small quarters. This fascinating, voyeuristic look at modern life comes in a chunky, pocket-sized format-the perfect coffee table book for people with really small apartments.

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It's common for Americans to stereotype the Japanese as conformist, rigidly organized, and immaculately tidy, but with Tokyo: A Certain Style Kyoichi Tsuzuki makes remarkable progress toward broadening those impressions. Tsuzuki photographed the very lived-in interiors of numerous Tokyo houses and apartments, and then jammed his piles of pictures into the format of a short-of-stature book. The result is an engrossing look at the many ways people have adapted to Tokyo's notoriously cramped living spaces. There are several common threads--indoor clotheslines are used to supplement or replace closet space in almost every home--but each dwelling brings out its owner's personality. Some are breathtakingly cluttered, with bric-a-brac piled on electronic equipment and papers stacked on every flat surface, while others show so little evidence of the debris of daily living that one feels certain sorcery must be involved. Most charming are the "design" elements that show off the owners' little quirks: ingeniously improvised hooks and shelves, major appliances banished to the outdoors, and the extensive stuffed animal collection of a grown adult. Many photos simply boggle the mind with the sheer amount of stuff that can be crammed into incredibly small spaces, while others highlight the strange beauty that is often achieved in compressed living. Highly recommended for dorm-bound college students or anyone who has ever groused about a lack of space. --Ali Davis


An indispensable resource for quality-conscious visitors who don't want to blow their budgets.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A uncertain amount of stuff Nov. 19 2002
By J. Holt
The point of the positive reviews -- that this book gives you a different view of "clean, tidy" Japanese -- hardly supports a reason to purchase this book.
Look, the photography does the best job it can to show these rooms (often so small that only one or two angles are possible), but photo after photo of seeing people's piles of books, records, manga, dishes? Please -- this is not a book about style. It's a book about people who have no style -- the have STUFF. If you're looking for insight into the real homelife style of Japanese, in this book you're mostly going to be seeing only a blur.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gil July 19 2004
By Gil
I stumbled across this little book one day while souting around at my local bookstore-I flipped thru the pages, and I was intrigued by the way the small spaces were used..I did not buy the book that day, and waited months before deciding to buy a copy. When I went looking, it was no where to be found, and I regret not buying it that day. then lo and behold, I was able to order it last week, picked it up this weekned and spent most of the evening scouring thru it. I spent time in Japan myself, and was amazed at how they efficiently use the little space available to them. It is true-How many of us live in cold minimalist empty shells devoid of the company of our treasured possessions? I would venture to say very few, and I would consder those folks very unlucky people, but that's how they chose to live, and I respect them. Give me my knicknacks, Kitsch, culled items from the curb, hi-fi systems, game consoles, books, and I am a happy man. Kyoichi, I know you are probably not reading this, but if you are, PLEASE write another book. You have a loyal follower in me...Gil
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If there was ever an opposite to minimalism, some of the photographs in this book are perfect illustrations of it. Every page is an exploration of someone's life, as outlined by the room(s) they live in. And all of those someones are citizens living in Tokyo. Rooms range from those plastered wall to wall with bookshelves (where two professors live), to laundy lines hanging above a bed functioning almost as a curtained canopy, to one or two pieces of furniture on a hardwood-floor with an electric guitar and two windows into a green courtyard.
The book is divided into sections based on style (ranging from cluttered to semi-thought-out design to traditional bamboo-mat japanese decor) with small captions for each photograph. There are also facts and photographs about some of the buildings -- how close they are to food/shopping areas, whether there's a communal bathroom, etc. The book is small (I venture to say "pocket-size" even -- it's about as tall as the length of my hand from palm to finger), but the photographs stretch from corner to corner with no borders and no especially obstructive text.
This is a great book for people interested in how possessions can define character, how place and setting and clutter can equate to some greater good, what all this means besides just "living space." I find myself thumbing through it frequently, a little overwhelmed, but always fascinated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's just like home! May 28 2004
Well, it's just like MY home, which is crammed to the brim with books, CDs and other junk I just can't part with!
My own living conditions aside, the main reason I love this book is that it is a look into REAL homes. Not those models you see in magazines or on TV. This is how real people live and that's what makes it all the more appealing. When faced with astronomical land prices, people are forced to live in a smaller space, while trying to keep their own "style," which is what this book is about.
As one reviewer wrote, the photos are circa 1992, but over 10 years later, things haven't changed--my friend's apartment (she lives in Fukushima, though) looks just like some of these places--an organized mess. Even when I was living there a few years ago, my place had that "less is more" feel, with no furniture and piles of books and CDs lining the walls.
The photos are bright and the overall atmosphere created is one of comfort--even when faced with mountains of "mono"--and that is the idea. One man's trash is another man's treasure and while some may cringe when seeing some of these places, one must always remember that these are/were people's homes and that, to them, this is comfort! The photos are not glamorous (the author is not a professional photographer and clearly states as much), but they are not meant to be, nor do they need to be.
This is book is a great piece of nostalgia for people who lived in Japan (like myself), and a wonderful insight into the way real people live in one of the largest, most expensive cities in the world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This Mess is a Place! Sept. 1 2003
By C Merry
I love this book in so many ways. If you actually read the text it not only explains his concept on doing it but makes you look around and explains why you are happy sitting inside an apt that seems like a toybox. I have felt this way for a long time but wondered if this was my "shameful" little secret. I love to walk into a home that feels like LIFE goes on in it, artists collecting and creating inspirational things, musicians collecting objects that create and inspire sound, children can run in and live and breathe and not feel bad for wanting to be children. As beautiful as the homes you'd see in AD may be (and I DO love to look at them) they are like paintings on a wall- pretty but not alive, designed by a pro and not what the world is for the person inside. Its not piles of stuff in this book its great hints at who the people are living happily in a sprawling city. My only problem with this book is that there isn't a volume 2 on the East Village NYC- hey Tokyo isn't the only city with a certain style... Call me when you are in town I'll show you Kyoichi... :)
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What's Wrong with Stuff?
I, for one, am all in favor of stuff. My own, my best friend's, my second cousin's, and even (especially) an anonymous Japanese surfer's. It's interesting. Read more
Published on April 21 2004 by Lisa2
5.0 out of 5 stars best bathroom book
This book currently resides in our bathroom. It gets frequent viewing and is perfect to view in the time needed. The book gives you a fishbowl look into Japanese lives. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Alisa McCune
1.0 out of 5 stars incredibly disappointing
What this book is: endless photographs of the insides of japanese apartments, showing stacks of books/cds/stuff/junk and all the different ways that a multitude of stuff can be... Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2003 by nycgirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and contemporary
If you are like me and like house porn, this book is a must flip-through. This book features contemporary Tokyo urbanites and suburbanites living in small spaces. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glimpse Inside Japanese Apartments
This a wonderful little book. Little in size not in page count, over 400 pages. The book shows the small accomodations that many tokyoites live in. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2001 by Daitokuji31
3.0 out of 5 stars Living large
The small cramped presentation of wonderful photographs of the way real folks live is frustrating but appropriate for the subject. Read more
Published on April 14 2001 by Pat Matsumoto
4.0 out of 5 stars extreme visual stimulation
this book is for those who find looking into the lives of others fascinating- each page is filled with excitement, energy, and ..... clutter. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars clutter in your pocket
If you are like me, you find the things that people collect in their homes fascinating. Contrary to the general perception of Japanese style, this book documents a series of... Read more
Published on June 28 2000 by Melissa Hardie
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