Monday, 18 March 2013

Good Books About Japan: Travel

There are hundreds of books about travel in Japan on the market from the indispensable tomes of Lonely Planet and Rough Guide packed full of detail and recommendation and glossy guides filled with gorgeous photographs as well as books dedicated to single cities and travel-writing by numerous visitors to the country throughout history.

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Here is my list of recommendations and personal favourites ...

Japan Travel Guide (Lonely Planet)
Lonely Planet's guides are always my first port of call when planning a trip as they are filled with information. They cover the big, well-known sights, hotels, restaurants etc as well as plenty of little hidden gems and are great to take along on your trip.
City Guides for Tokyo and Kyoto as well as the compact Tokyo Encounter and the new full-colour Discover Japan book are also available.

The Rough Guide to Japan
The second big contender in the travel guide market is also packed full of information and facts.

Japan (The National Geographic Traveller)
The full-colour National Geographic guides have lots more photos and maps than many other guides making them enjoyable to browse through and plan your trip. As they don't contain as much information as other guides they are perhaps not as useful to take with you.

Japan (DK Eyewitness)
Just like National Geographic guides, DK Eyewitness travel guides are always filled with hundreds of gorgeous photos and maps and are perfect for planning your trip at home.

Japan (Globetrotter Travel Pack)
Though the guide book doesn't contain as much information as other guides the main plus of this publication is the large fold-out map of Japan that is also included. Useful street maps of Tokyo, Kyoto and other major cities are printed on the reverse of the map.

Japan by Rail (Trailblazer)
This guide to travelling around Japan by rail contains basic facts about the country as well as information about rail passes, the history of Japan's railway network and detailed regional guides.

Time Out Tokyo
A handy modern guide to Tokyo which, though criticised for its lack of place names written in Japanese, contains many interesting places and recommendations. Useful pocket-sized Time Out Shortlist Tokyo and Time Out Shortlist Kyoto also available.

Old Kyoto: A Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants and Inns by Diane Durston
A lovely guide to the many traditional establishments that still operate in Kyoto including detailed information and maps. This book was very useful for the planning of my Kyoto Walking Tour.

Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital by Judith Clancy
A series of 30 walking tours around famous sights and less well known parts of Kyoto. The book contains a few colour photos and each walk is accompanied by a detailed map. Another book that I used whilst planning my Kyoto Walking Tour.

World Film Locations: Tokyo by Chris MaGee (ed)
Organised by area this collection of short essays discusses films shot on location or based in various locations throughout the city from Ozu classics to modern films of both Japanese and western cinema. An interesting and unusual guide for film buffs.

Road Atlas Japan (Shobunsha)
If you're planning a more adventurous trip and planning to get off the beaten track or you'll be driving in Japan then this road atlas in English will be very useful. It also includes street maps of many major cities.

Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide (Kodansha)
A really handy bilingual atlas filled with maps of Tokyo, the subway system and nearby areas such as Yokohama. Detailed maps of central Tokyo are also included.

Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson
A funny and enlightening travelogue written by a Canadian English teacher who, whilst working in Japan, decided to hitchhike from one end of Japan to the other chasing the cherry blossom front. Though Ferguson is generally very negative about the country the stories of the people that he meets along the way are truly wonderful.
In this wonderful book the author describes his journey, mainly by rail and boat from London to Japan and back again. Chapters 26 - 29 tell the story of his travels by train from Tokyo to Sapporo and then to Kyoto and Osaka. Though Theroux doesn't exactly warm to Japan the book is well worth reading.

AA Gill is Away by AA Gill
One short chapter of this collection of travel writings titled 'Mad in Japan' describes the authors visit to Tokyo in September 2001. I'm afraid he is rather scathing about what he sees and experiences but it makes an interesting read.

Tried & Tested by Itsumo Japan!

Entries that bear this stamp are books that are on the Itsumo Japan bookshelf and are especially recommended.


I personally used Frommer's Japan when I visited in 2011. Found it to be very useful as I'm sure the ones mentioned are too.

Thanks for your recommendation Shane, I've never used any of the Frommer's guides personally. What would you say makes them especially good? I'm always on the lookout for new books about Japan!
Thanks for reading Itsumo Japan ^_^

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