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The Year of No Money in Tokyo

By Chuck Johnson

Any foreigner who’s been in Japan for a while can tell you that there’s a lot of ups and downs to living life out here. As a country, Japan seems to prize itself on its homogeny, and as such, one sees everything from the Japanese government’s 1986 proud announcement of its "mono-ethnicity"’ (despite having a multitude of indigenous ethnic minorities, populations of people who migrated from the rest of Asia over the centuries, and a continuously growing population of people with mixed nationalities) to the fact that when asked for their personal opinion on a matter, locals will often respond, “Well, we Japanese think…”

As a foreigner here, this translates into living an existence where all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses stem from the fact that you are blisteringly different. Few books I’ve read have so eloquently and honestly portrayed that fact as Wayne Aponte’s "The Year of No Money in Tokyo."

In Aponte’s book, he chronicles his transition from life as an impoverished youth in New York to the high life as a successful businessman in Tokyo to the lows of being completely penniless during the middle of a recession, and the consequential journey he takes to find his way back to financial (and psychological) well-being. The book takes place over the course of a year in which it takes him to do so, and as he writes, one cannot just get a feeling for the myriad of status levels falling under the umbrella term of "foreigner," but also the varying mentalities that one shifts through as they go from one to the other.

Aponte’s journey reshapes him from everything to a giver and socialite to a parasite and womanizer, and in telling his story, he pulls no punches in terms of describing himself or the things that he does. His brutal honesty is both breathtaking, refreshing and shocking all at the same time, and even if some might not like him at the beginning of the book, it’s hard not to respect him by the end.

His uncompromising volition toward his goal of finding his way against his odds, (and personality faults) is admirable, as is the fact he does not play himself up to be more than he is. In a city that prides itself on its gloss, and shimmer and cares more about its outward image than its skyrocketing suicide rates, Aponte writes as a man who has pushed past the bull and displays Tokyo for all that it is -- lonely and neurotic, expensive and exceeding classy, and ostracizing and incredibly opportunistic all at the same time.

For those foreigners living here, "The Year of No Money" offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those other foreigners whose faces we see, but whose stories we never hear, as well as look at the darker -- and brighter -- side of ourselves.

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It sounds like a good read, full of honesty and grit. I may have to get this.

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Sounds like an interesting book...I hope he did't take advantage of too many people in the writing process.

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Just ordered it on Amazon. Sounds like a good read!

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May make for interesting reading. But he did all this in 1 year?! Must be a pretty fast paced book.

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Sounds interesting so I will probably check it out. Having lived here a decade now, I think most foreigners I know here have pretty interesting stories to tell. Japan is another planet and alter reality that I think arequires one to be either inspired, insane or persistent to endure and survive its many challenges to live as an alien resident.

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Seems unlikely that he bacame a succesful businessman and then lost it all in year. And was a giver then a parasite then a womaniser etc. Sounds like fiction to me.

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cliff's notes on how to become a scab

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Sounds like a GREAT way to sell a book to other foreigners, because HE has "NO Money". DrrrrF.

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Wonder if it's in the local library yet. Been a tough year here, too, but a free read is the only handout I'm looking for.

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I hope he has a better writing style than his reviewer.

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Toecutter, you aren't the only one. I was wondering what "exceeding classy" means. Going above and beyond the call of classy?

And how does Aponte "find himself against his own odds?"

And this classic: "is both breathtaking, refreshing and shocking" I mean, I thought "both" meant only 2 things.

And that statement about Tokyo having migrants from "the rest of Asia over the centuries."

I have yet to read about any history book supporting this "fact."

And one does not "prize" oneself, as in the first paragraph, one "prides" oneself, as the reviewer writes near the end.

It's almost as if Chuck, here, was writing a bad post... like me...

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My first reaction to this was "what a boring title for a book!" Then when I read the rest of the review, it put me completely off any desire to read it. The author sounds like a typical obnoxious upstart from the West coming to Japan to live a hedonistic life without a thought for anyone but himself, in ways that would neither be tolerated nor allowed in his home country. I think it would make me physically ill to read it.

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Apparently he gets laid in the book.

Sounds like a good read.

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Don't judge a book by its reviewer.

I bought the Kindle version of this book yesterday and have not been able to put it down since.

It's raw, self-absorbed, and sterotypical in a sense, but it's also VERY well written. The author has a very effective command of the language and as a result the book is utterly engrossing. (At least to me)

I've been in Japan for 10'ish years myself, and can relate to a lot of what the author writes about. (Not so much the not having any money part, but more on the interpersonal relations in Japan)

This is one of the more entertaining books I have read in some time.

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The Year of No Money in Tokyo.....So he wrote his book not to have next year the same,,,,HELLO MONEY can be his next.

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The next installment of this series will be called 'The Year of Having Lots of Money'.

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I took twoyen's advise and read the first chapter for free on the web. He's a darn good writer. Nothing to be jealous about, I find him quite insightful and observant. Good read.

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Whipped through this over the last 2 nights. Aponte can definitely write and his style is quick but insightful. Not all of the chapters work, but it's definitely worth the read (particularly for Tokyo folks).

I am curious as to why one key point of the story is left out of this preview. That is probably the writer's wish so I will leave it be.

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He probably wrote the book to make money.....

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Good book. Read this review, ordered it. Definitely a page-turner.

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