Q&A With Gilles Poitras
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Q&A With Gilles Poitras
Nearing the end of this week is my Q&A with author Gilles Poitras. Gilles wrote Tokyo Stroll: A Guide to City Sidetracks & Easy Explorations which is a book I want to read. Gilles has also written Anime Essentials, The Anime Companion, and The Anime Companion 2.
Q: Gilles, where are your favorite spots in Tokyo that you covered in your book Tokyo Stroll?
A:Asakusa is one, it is my home base when I visit Tokyo. While it suffers from overtourism it still has much to offer beyond Sensōji temple. I urge people to bookmark in a map app what they don’t want to miss in advance if they can.
Fukagawa is another, as is Ueno with its temples and excellent museums.
Ningyōchō is a delight with its old shops and traditional feel. It is also the setting of the Kyoichiro Kaga Series of mysteries by Higashino Keigo.
Shibamata is another, out on the edge of the city it has preserved a Shōwa vibe which they are not about to change as the Torasan series of movies set in the neighborhood is their major tourist draw. Note that there are almost no non-Japanese tourists to this lovely neighborhood. Movie fans will not want to miss the Torasan and Yoji Yamada museums which are right next to each other. You can buy a joint ticket for both.
Now all of the above are from the older part of Tokyo with its rich history and locations. The modern city also has plenty that I covered in Tokyo Stroll hidden away here and there.
Q: How long did it take for you to write Tokyo Stroll?
A: Years. The early notes I based the book on were the ones I kept from planning my various trips to Tokyo. When I started on the book I checked those for the locations with the highest density of material. I quickly narrowed the areas to cover to just over 20 neighborhoods. I also have a pretty solid library of books on the city, many from academic publishers or published in Japan. I went out of my way to track down what I could find of the history of each specific shop, temple, shrine etc. For shops I emphasized those that were old, preferably over 100 years old as they were less likely to go out of business. The actual writing and coordination work with Cynthis Olen who did the maps took about two years.
Q: What was it like having Jake Adelstein write the forward to Tokyo Stroll?
A: Quite easy actually. We have been in contact for several years so when I dropped him an email asking if he would be willing to write it he quickly said yes. Both my publisher and I were jazzed with his reply as he knows the city in ways many do not. Once the book was close to finished we dropped him a PDF to check out and quickly got a reply. The book was delayed for 2 years due to the pandemic, which meant that it came out a few months after the TV show Tokyo Vice which is based on Jake’s book of the same name.
Q: Would you ever write another book exploring other places in Japan such as Kyoto, Osaka & the countryside?
A: That is tempting. Those areas are harder to find reliable detailed information on. However Kyoto and Osaka have some wonderful places not in the guidebooks, such as the shrines associated with Abe no Seimei, that need more exposure and have few tourists visiting. I’ll consider this for a future project. The countryside near Tokyo I am beginning to cover in the web supplement to Tokyo Stroll in the day trip section. The supplement is very much a work in progress as each entry takes some time to write and often involves editing or creating location information in both Google Maps and OpenStreetMap.
The supplement homepage is at:
Further travel books will depend on how well Tokyo Stroll sells.