Book Reviews

Book Review: Tokyo Dreaming

Title: Tokyo Dreaming
Author: Emiko Jean
Genre: Young Adults, Romance, Fiction

What It’s About: Izumi has returned to Japan with her mother in tow, her father wanting to continue on the relationship between them, but her mom wants to stay out of the limelight for a while longer. Izumi has to make a major decision–whether she wants to go to University and which of the schools she wants to go to–but she struggles with making that choice. In the meantime, she continues to see Akio–her former body guard–and the gossip columns continue to swirl with commentaries that hurt her and more specifically, hurt her mom.

Her father, Makoto, proposes to Hanako, Izumi’s mom, who accepts the proposal with lots of happiness, and they announce that to the Imperial family. The Council that is to make the decision on whether the marriage is acceptable is against the marriage for various reasons including Hanako’s background, and Izumi’s missteps in the public face, making her mother look bad to Japanese society–clearly, her mother did not raise her well.

During a walk, Izumi and Akio overhear her chamberlain talking with a different one, in which they say that Izumi’s lack of interest in school and also her relationship with Akio are hurting Hanako’s chances of getting an approval from the Council. Izumi doesn’t know what to do about it, but shortly thereafter, Akio breaks up with her for very unclear reasons, citing the chamberlain. He is, after all, moving to Nara for training as a pilot, and they won’t be able to spend time together.

After wallowing in her loss for a bit, Izumi decides that she will try to apply to the University of Tokyo and tells her lady-in-waiting as well as her chamberlain her intentions. She wishes to study Botany, as a nod to her mother. That said, she will have to take the entrance exams and be accepted to go to the University, so the Chamberlain offers to set her up with a tutor as well as provide a list of potential suitors for her. Izumi accepts the offer for the tutor but turns down the offer of a list of potential suitors–she has no heart to date.

She ends up meeting with Eriku Nakamara at the Library and they begin to study for her exams and interview at the University of Japan. They become good friends, telling each other about their lonely lives growing up–Eriku had been a genius and went to different universities, skipping several grades by going to school in the US. His father wants him to take over the family business while Eriku has a passion and an interest in music. Time winds on, and one day Izumi meets with Eriku at a party, when he comes with his father. It turns out that Eriku is the heir to a large business empire owned by his father, and is fairly well off. It is a this time that Izumi realizes that it was a setup by her chamberlain-he took the tutoring and made it into a potential relationship. So she suggests to Eriku that they pretend that they are having a relationship, since that is what everyone seems to want of them.

They spend the next several months going on dates, and becoming closer, with the promise that they wouldn’t fall in love with each other–a promise that Eriku breaks. It is during this time that at a family gathering, Izumi gets into a scuffle with Noriko and Akiko over an article showing that Akio had a new girlfriend. This scuffle results in the destruction of an ancient vase that was gifted from China to Japan, and the Empress is not pleased. She yells at the girls for squabbling amongst each other, and then tells them that to work things out, they will be going to a shrine for a week or so, so that they can begin working together.

The three girls head up to the Shrine in silence, and on their first day there, they are left to fend for themselves in the rooms. Neither Noriko and Akiko know how to cook, so Izumi cooks for them so long as they promise to wash the dishes (which she has to teach them how to do anyway). The next morning, the girls are left to sweep the grounds of the shrine, and by the end of the day, Noriko’s hands are bloodied from holding onto the broom for far too long. Izumi helps them by giving Akiko bandages, and slowly they begin to patch up their differences. By the end of the trip, the girls sit together in the same row and eventually both Noriko and Akiko take Izumi shopping for a new wardrobe that will get her a positive opinion in the public. They hire an adviser on Public Relations (pretty much) for Izumi and the lady helps her by finding a designer and a cause for Izumi–blood donation for the Red Cross, which is a cause that was championed by other empresses and would show the public image that while she is bold in her stylistic choices, she is also traditional in the causes that she supports.

Izumi goes along with it, even when Noora comes to visit. As they spend time together, Noora reminds her to not lose herself–to do what calls to her, which Izumi claims is what she is doing. She takes the entrance exam for the University of Tokyo, and has an interview where the interviewer gives her an unofficial acceptance to the school. The official acceptance shows up weeks later.

Akio visits the Imperial Grounds after Christmas and tells Izumi that he wants to fight for her, and so Izumi is stuck in limbo between Akio and Eriku. But by this point, the Council had already come to a decision–Hanako and Makoto can get married with their blessing. It turns out that Eriku had put in a good word for Izumi with the Prime Minister who is on the Council; the same guy that Izumi had offended at his own wedding. This helped elevate the opinion of Hanako and Izumi and clinched the wedding’s approval, and as a result Hanako had begun planning the wedding.

As Hanako has a Wedding Kimono fitting, she has a panic attack and Izumi quickly has to get her mom out of the robes despite them being old and fragile, as well as get her to a safe house away from the imperial grounds. She chooses to go to Noriko’s and Akiko’s apartment in Tokyo, where the four spend time together. At first, Izumi ignores calls from her father, but then picks one up and tells him where they are. Makoto shows up and asks what they can do to fix this, because he does not want to lose Hanako again. They agree to having dinners together, and also Hanako and Makoto will be married in a quiet ceremony, just the two of them, while they have a bigger celebration for the rest of the public. Makoto also tells Izumi that he would rather she do what makes her true to herself than keeping up with some public idea of what is expected of her.

After the wedding, Izumi decides what she wants–she visits Eriku and tells him that she cares for him but only as a friend, and offers him a temporary escape from Japan in her home in Mount Shasta, which he takes on. She also goes to the University of Tokyo and changes her degree to literature instead of botany, because she has always enjoyed writing, while ditching the cause for the Red Cross and having her chamberlain find something with animals. The last thing that she does is goes to Nara and visits Akio to tell him that she wants to be with him. They stop by a hotel that night and things lead to one another, where they have sex for the first time, before Reina finds them again, and it is time for Izumi to go back.

Izumi then starts her first semester at the University of Tokyo and stays in the dorms while she is in touch with both Eriku and the Asian Girl Gang–her best friends from Mount Shasta–and continues dating Akio.

My Thoughts: This was a good second book to the first one, and I hope that it’s the last one because I feel like it has a very good ending and good closure on Izumi’s story. She got everything that she wanted–her parents together, and the boy that she loves, which is always nice to see in a book like this.

One thing that I can say is that it may peeve a lot of people that Izumi gave up everything that she wanted in the beginning to get people on her side. But there’s one thing that she says to her mom during their various conversations in the book–that sometimes you have to change the institution from within, or make a change from within. And that is very very true–reading through leadership and personal development books myself–one of the key things that many of them say is that change is more effective from within; when you come from a place of trust and authority rather than pushing back against the status quo. So for Izumi to get her parents the happiness that they so desperately wanted, she had to play the long game by giving up her current wants for the trust that she could gain. It is not fair, for sure, but it is a way to play the “game” of politics and public opinion, unfortunately, and the fact that she was so quick to realize this shows that despite her lack of amazing grades, she is very smart and knowledgeable in her own ways. Also, sometimes you have to lose something in order to know that it’s definitely what you want to have.

Very good book, and while I wouldn’t mind having a third book–I think book 2 should be the end of this story as it truly is a happily ever after.

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