Book Review: John Lister’s Purodyssey: A Tokyo Wrestling Diary

It’s undeniable that western interest in Japanese pro wrestling, specifically that of New Japan, has hit an all time high. The recent Strong style evolved show sold out in an impressive 20 minutes, western NJPW world subscriptions are as high as ever and the promotion has been making huge headway into the UK and Australia too, with the UK getting its own Strong style evolved show soon and Australia having hosted a successful Fallout tour earlier this year. New Japan’s success seems to be shining a spotlight on other Japanese promotions as well and the with the likes of AJPW, Stardom, Dragongate and DDT now having their own streaming services, it’s easier then ever for fans to watch a variety of Puro. Whether Japanese wrestling is hitting its peak (from a foreign standpoint) or this is just the beginning for New Japan and Puroresu as a whole, remains to be seen. Either way with interest in the product booming, so is the desire of many fans to make the trip across to Tokyo and see Puroresu live and in its most unfiltered and genuine form.

Never before then, has there been as good a time for a book like Purodyssey to come along. Written by wrestling and combat sports journalist, author of Slamthology and Turning The Tables: The Story Of Extreme Championship Wrestling and (most importantly you may say) wrestling fan of over twenty years: John Lister. Purodyssey chronicles a wrestling pilgrimage of sorts, as Lister travels to Japan for the first time and manages to watch fourteen wrestling shows in just eight days.

Essentially a guide to the dos and don’ts of making a wrestling orientated trip to Japan, Lister covers his first hand experiences with Japanese public transport, overcoming the language barrier, finding food palatable to a westerner, discovering the wrestling themed shops, bars and diners, and the joys of finding a British cup of tea (it’s worth mentioning that the author is English.), amongst other subjects. It’s more then just some how-to guide though, as the book is laced with the authors occasionally dry and often witty humour and his willingness to poke fun at himself, his misadventures and the highly niche and at times bizarre nature of his trip.

The coverage of the wrestling itself, which ranges from New Japan’s annual Tokyo Dome show, to a show that takes place in a former pharmacy, is enough for the reader to gather the nature of the experience, without overloading them with match by match breakdowns or reviews. There is a match results section right at the end of the book, although in truth this is perhaps an unnecessary inclusion.

While the main portion of the book focuses on Lister’s personal experience of making such a journey, it is the guide that follows that will have any wrestling fan serious about going to Japan, flicking back through time and time again. Costs, ticket buying, transport, useful Japanese words and phrases (including help with pronunciation) and even tips on how to deal with Jetlag are all covered. Forget endlessly scouring the internet to find out where you can get those DDT show tickets, this book has got you covered.

It’s unashamedly, a very niche book. Don’t expect an in-depth and deep look into any of the promotions visited, that’s not what this book is aiming to do. It doesn’t serve as an introductory guide to Japanese wrestling for more casual fans either (though descriptions of the more quirkier elements of the wrestling John encounters may well peak the interest of some). This isn’t to say you have to be planning on a trip to Japan to enjoy this book, as those who have a keen and wide interest in Japanese wrestling culture, should find it a fun and fascinating read.

All in all, Purodyssey offers a thoroughly entertaining, honest and insightful look into watching Japanese pro wrestling live, one that many Puroresu fans will greatly appreciate.

By Mike Grindle

@MikeGrindle

Purodyssey: A Tokyo Wrestling Diary is available now on Kindle and Paperback Here.

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