Mixed-race JA woman documents first trip to Japan

Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy
Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes

Written and illustrated by Christine Mari Inzer (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, $14.99, paperback)

For people with immigrant ancestry, the experience of returning to one’s motherland is all too familiar. While its exciting to reunite with family, living in a totally different environment is both intimidating and, ultimately, transformative. This is exactly what Christine Mari Inzer chronicles in her debut work, “Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes.”

Inzer is a Japanese American young woman; her mother is Japanese, and her father is American. In the book, Inzer recounts her eight-week trip to Japan as a 15-year-old during the summer of 2013.

For her, the trip represents two significant firsts: her first time living outside of the United States and her first time living away from family. Luckily, Inzer’s hosts in Japan are her maternal grandparents, and their hospitality offers Inzer familiarity during the eight weeks. 

Nevertheless, the trip pushes Inzer both out of her comfort zone and into the wonder of 21st century Japan. Though the trip’s primary purpose was to spend time with family, Inzer also travels throughout Honshu (i.e. Kashiwa, Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara). What ultimately results is an experience that forces Inzer into both hilarious misadventures and unexpected maturity.

If one only looks at the cover,  “Diary of a Tokyo Teen” is just a journal-style retelling of a trip to Japan. However, Inzer crafts “Diary” into much more than that; she effectively supplements her narrative with both nuanced descriptions of her destinations and endearing illustrations that depict what she sees.

For example, one of Inzer’s most memorable experiences is her trip to Kinkaku-ji. Not only does she mention that the legendary temple is actually a reconstruction of the original, but she also skillfully illustrates the golden phoenix adorning the top of the temple. These seemingly minor touches simultaneously inform readers about Inzer’s destinations and adds an artistic flair to the book.

Hence, the book is as much a nuanced travel guide as it is a recount of an isolated experience. These traits coupled with Inzer’s transparency about her struggles during her trip make “Diary” a hilarious yet thought-provoking short read.

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