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Chic Travel Guides

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New Emissary

Chic Travel Guides

A Japan-based travel guide author gives us the scoop on Wallpaper* City Guides.

Wallpaper* is sure to attract new fans now that it has some of its City Guides series travel books available for download as iPhone and iPod apps. A review this week in The Miami Herald called the app sleek, with an ‘intuitive’ interface, and recommended it for travellers looking to enhance their more standard travel plans or guidebooks; a perfect aid for ‘[picking] a few highlights for a two or three-day visit.’

And there’s one Asian location being offered in this new format: Tokyo. I spoke to Gordon Kanki-Knight, co-author of the Wallpaper* City guide: Tokyo and author of several other City Guides. He shared with me some of his ideas on the books:

What, in your opinion, differentiates a Wallpaper* City Guide from other city guidebooks?

Wallpaper* City Guides are unique because they’re aimed at the design-savvy traveller and they’re pared-down—just eight chapters—so they’re not standard.

In my opinion, they’re all the better for that because if you rely on your typical travel guidebook, chances are you’ll end up on the well-trodden tourist circuit. The Wallpaper* City Guides take you to the places the locals have been keeping a secret—be it Movida restaurant in Melbourne, Acqua bar in Basel or Kotori cafe in Osaka.

What are the challenges in writing the guides?

The City Guides aim to give design-savvy people a simple checklist of the need-to-know places in every city. They look quite simple, but for every place we include we actually visit and reject two or three.

We’re trying to seek out the city’s most sophisticated venues—which are often places that don’t advertise themselves because they want to stay off the tourist path.

Of course, while many of the restaurants and inspiring buildings come recommended, we have to seek out new places, and places that might not even be open yet.

Then, of course, because of Japan’s lack of street names and addresses, my wife and I (who also works on the books) create maps of the whole city in question which we spread across the living room floor and mark with all of the places we need to visit. So there’s a lot of preparation that goes on before we even start the actual on-site research.

Wallpaper-City-Guides-e1270107578268Gordon also gave me the insider’s scoop on Japan’s lesser known metropolis, Osaka, which I’ll share soon.

Gordon Kanki-Knight is a Tokyo-based writer who has been a contributor to Wallpaper* magazine since 2005. He co-authored the Tokyo Wallpaper* City Guide and is the author of the Kyoto and Osaka guides as well as the soon-to-be-released Sapporo edition.