What's your favorite Japan guidebook?

Jan 20th, 2013, 04:24 PM
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What's your favorite Japan guidebook?

Is it sacrilege to even ask this questions on Fodor's?

I'm usually a fan of LP, but they really seem to be going downhill lately on catching all the nuances of countries and cities, especially in Asia.

There are literally hundreds of Japan guidebooks out there.

What's your recommendation for the best, comprehensive overall guide for planning and for having on-the-ground?
filmwill is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 06:13 PM
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Unfortuantely imo the best two are quite old - and probably hard to find - Gateway to Japan by Kinoshita and Palevsky and Japan Solo by Kanno and O'Keefe. I don't know about their hotels and restaurants but most of the sights don't change that much...lol.

If you are doing a lot of train travel a new Japan by Rail by Zarifeh recently was published - that's not bad but deals more with places that the trains go to, of course...

Then I use japan-guide.com for my main reference. I really don't carry any guidebook because I travel light but I sometimes copy pages from the books plus I print out other things I find online such as important tourist info, maps to hotels, etc. I make up lists of the possible places I will visit and put them on my itinerary sheet. Then I make a spreadsheet up for all the possible trains I will take.

And I travel with my mini-laptop, no smartphone yet, so I can check anything out when I'm in my hotel room.
Mara is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 06:44 PM
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Gateway to Japan. It is really heads & shoulders above any other when it comes to sorting out cultural stuff in Japan. I wish June Kinoshita would let someone update the hotel, transportation dining aspects and reprint it.

If you want to borrow mine, I'd be happy to mail it if you send your address.
lcuy is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 07:29 PM
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HT speaks and Mrwun on japan...
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 08:04 PM
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I got the 1992 edition of Gateway to Japan for about $3 (plus shipping of about $3) from a seller on Amazon. You can find some additional listings here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listi...condition=used. (It's amazing what some people are selling this book for!)
ContraBecky is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 08:33 PM
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Japan Solo and the Fodors Japan edition that quoted me.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 10:49 PM
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For planning your trip, JapanTourist.jp has information about many tourist spots, events and eateries that you won't find in any other guide. All the content is created and updated by people with local knowledge.
RodWalters is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 09:34 AM
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Usually I scan the travel bookshelf and glean all of the books for the most up to date changes like new openings of hotels, transport changes and city developments i.e.: Roppongi Hills etc.

For the most part now I use the web. Props to Fodors for sponsoring this site which is one of the best with great contemporary trip reports and suggestions from those who have "boots on the ground".

Some of my regular check ins are with the Japan Times, Metropolitan Magazine web sites web travel articles.
The previously mentioned japan-guide as well as bento.con and their sister site "Where in Tokyo" are good for recent recs and maps.
The Japan National Tourist site has good pdf downloads for the most popular areas

I also have to put a word in for the small illustrated JTB books "A Look Into Japans series. More educational than travel but this makes travel much more enjoyable if you have some background.
I still refer back to my copy of the Gluck's "Japan Inside Out" for backround and historical references to destinations and suggested itineraries. Its the size of a phonebook and has a wealth of information that defies being dated.
In the same vein I have to recommend Alan Booth's "The Roads to Sata" as a wonderful insight into Japan and travel.

I've got a stack of books right now as I'm planning a trip in May
Happy Travels !
kalihiwai2 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 12:24 PM
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For Kyoto, nothing for me tops Diane Durston's Seven Paths to The Heart of The City. Great combination of cultural insights, practical information, and photos that make you look forward to an interminable aeroplane ride.
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 01:29 PM
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a 20 year old guidebook (1992) for $3 is worth about $1 with free postage.... while its descriptions of historic place is probably ok, little else would be correct.. and there would be tons of missing items
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 01:45 PM
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You are mistaken, rhk. Gateway to Japan remains the best overall English-language guide to Japan, more than 525 pages crammed full of information on Japanese culture, language, towns, cuisine, gardens, history. Sure, the info on hotels and restaurants is obsolete, but that's probably not even 5% of the book. I wouldn't part with my copy.
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 02:20 PM
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I agree DT, Gateway to Japan is the best even though I have taken mine apart so I don't have to carry the whole heavy thing when I just needed one section....lol...I still have all of it....and I wouldn't use any guidebook really for up to date info on hotels and restaurants - too much info available online as some said above....

Plus one can often get excellent information at the local Tourist Information Center - transport maps and what's going on in the location, etc. Sorry I didn't say that before...
Mara is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 02:54 PM
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You guys do not disappoint, I'll tell you that much!

Ordered a copy of Gateway on Amazon. Thanks so much for the offer, Lucy--how generous are you? But, figure with all the back and forth shipping, it'd probably be more than I'm paying on Amazon (about $10 total.)

Looking forward to sifting through that book.

Now, for a guid with more current restaurants, activities and hotels, what would you recommend? I'm trying to avoid buying 10 books for Japan if at all possible (individual city guides, cultural guides and a country guide all adds up.)

Definitely have used japan-guide.com extensively in the past -- and will continue to for this trip.

One thing I never realized is how a place that seems just a little bit bigger than California can have so very much to do, see, eat, experience, etc. WOW! Overwhelming!!
filmwill is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 04:30 PM
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Best bet for restaurant reccos/guide is online info. Chowhound has a pretty good/reliable board for Japan.
DonTopaz is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Well since we are being sacrilegious here,and since Bob has already blasphemed against the sacred Gateway to Japan,far be it for me to be the one to shy away hahaha

For hotel and restaurant recommendations I personally like the Frommers Japan Guide which does it for me. It comes closest to my tastes. A more comprehensive guide than the other one. On my very first Japan trips that is the book I carried with me.

That said I don't carry any books per se to Japan anymore. I use Mara's theory of pieces of books and copies of maps, notes and recommendations. I also print out one of more of these practical travel guide pdf's of the places I will venture into Japan on the current trip.


In fact this JNTO site has really upgraded their city pdf's and practical guides and are really worth a look into and print out if needed. They are now giving the JG site a run for their money.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 06:17 PM
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I just took a look at the JNTO site, ht - thanks for the link. I did forgot to say that I go to the Japanese Tourist office located here in NYC and pick up those pdf's there as well as other tourist info that they may have on the area I plan to visit.

Also I sometimes email the local prefectural or other tourist office - some of them have sent me (snail mail) quite extensive information such as the one in Takamatsu.

I'm not a big foodie so I will look at a couple of online sites but that's not a big issue for me...
Mara is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 07:53 PM
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i'll go back in my hole... i have the best guide (book)---HT...
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 09:07 PM
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Agree with Gateway. But for restaurants, galleries and nightlife in Tokyo you'll need Time Out - current and stylish.
crosscheck is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 10:18 PM
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HT, por favor...I beg of you chime in on my other thread about our itinerary. Your advice has always been golden.
filmwill is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 10:19 PM
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My bad. I just saw you did. Many thanks!
filmwill is offline  

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