People Make Places
Posted on 20 November 2016
When asked what the best way to discover Tokyo is, Charles answers,"get lost!" Last week we spoke to author Charles Spreckly, about People Make Places, his recently self-published, travel guide to Tokyo. As a Japanofile myself, I jumped at the chance to meet him at his book signing and learn the story behind his project and selfishly, more insider tips to Tokyo!
People Make Places, and its accompanying app (yes, get it!), introduces 48 Tokyo destinations that have heart, soul and a personality inherited from their creators. It focuses on the clothing designer and her boutique; the cocktail maker and his bar; the bladesmith and his knife shop; and the doughnut maker and her home-style café.
The book isn't so much a guide book as an inspirational coffee table book. Beautifully shot, written in long form taking time to tell the story of each place and their creators. So I wanted to tell his story after our meeting. Originally from Chichester, an 18 year old Charles wanted to move to China but a turn of events brought him to Tokyo instead. Working as a journalist, he naturally became a tour guide to friends and family coming to Japan. This led him to his luxury travel business Bespoke Tokyo for the last 10 years. However, all Michelin guide and famous tourist destinations have been banned from this project, so it's a true insider guide to Tokyo.
I really enjoyed hearing the challenges and turns of fate behind Charles' project. Including convincing some reluctant subjects to agree to be featured in his book. His 15 years in Tokyo had gained him trust among some of his subjects, but he had to pull all the strings he could to get permission with some of the more skeptical makers. Or the one subject that had to be dropped from the book because they had retired by the time the book was ready for print. The book took three years instead of the original one. Charles one regret was that there weren't more women subjects in this book. Maybe for the second edition
My favourite story is of charismatic chef Oshima from Shima, who refused to be in the Michelin guide but agreed to be featured in this book. He serves beef you can trace the lineage of, complete with certificates of authenticity showing the bull's nose print.