Books I Wish I Wrote: Pretty Good Number One

It has the strangest title, this book.
Pretty Good Number One

I wish I could tell you the exact circumstances surrounding its purchase, but the only thing I remember is waking up one morning to a handful of e-mails from Amazon thanking me for my ebook purchases the night before (damn you Amazon 1-click!). 
Pretty Good Number One is Tokyo as seen from the eyes of an American father who explored the city together with his wife and daughter. And while our circumstances vary greatly - they were on vacation for a month, I was working there for a year - it was definitely a jog through memory lane. I've always regretted not writing more about life in Japan; at least now I have this book to recommend instead. 

On the complexity of garbage disposal
When we moved in, our landlord, Mac, handed us an official four-page color guide explaining how to sort our garbage. [...] Then he walked off into the Nakano sun, leaving us alone with this document; it was like being a new parent all over again.
Tokyo has pretty much made everything easy - from ketchup packets that can be opened with one hand (because the other is busy holding the hotdog, see) to watermelons shaped like cubes so they don't roll off delivery trucks and hit people - except for garbage disposal. There are several categories of trash, each with its own pickup schedule (no bringing out of bags until the night before pickup), its own special color-coded plastic bag which had to be purchased from the konbini, and its own set of instructions. Burnable items go in the yellow bags (pickup twice a week), non-burnable in the pink bags (pickup once every two weeks), PET bottles have to be emptied with bottle caps removed (disposal bins magically appear when they're due to be collected), and cans have to be rinsed clean with the labels stripped off. And that's just scratching the surface.

On ticket machines
A ramen ticket machine is an aptitude test, a menu, and robot in one box.
It's also a godsend for people who don't speak Japanese (read: moi). You feed it some bills, push the buttons with the most appetizing pictures, hand the ticket to the waitstaff, and pray you did not accidentally select cold ramen.

On learning the language
Eventually, the language started to click. [...] Ah, she said "nomimono." She's asking me what I want to drink! Also, she's holding up a glass and gesturing wildly at it. When I successfully parsed a sentence, it felt like someone threw a fish at me and I filleted it in midair. 
I still find it quite amazing how you get what someone is trying to say without actually understanding any single word that was uttered. 

On what makes Tokyo awesome
The great stuff about Tokyo is like a vampire: it doesn't show up in photos.
 Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton can be purchased from Amazon, available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

P.S. The ebook is on sale right now for $3.99!


  1. Well, however it happened, I'm certainly glad you found the book!


    1. I'm really glad I found it as well - it was a delightful read. ^^