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Guide Book for Japan

My husband and i are planning a trip to Japan. Can anyone suggest a good guide book. How i wish Rick had one.
Thanks In advance

Rose Simpkin

Posted by
15670 posts

I've used the Rough Guide to Japan and Moon Japan. There is always Lonely Planet Japan.

I've also found there are great videos on traveling in Japan on Youtube.

I'm about to start planning a return trip next winter or spring.

Posted by
4586 posts

RS has never been the only fish in the sea, Fodors and Frommers are always available.

For Japan you might consider a package tour. Otherwise be sure to get a rail pass.

Posted by
795 posts

Hi, I saw that you'd posted earlier asking about tours in Japan, so wondered if you chose one or are going to plan the trip on your own? I think it very much depends, (as always) on what sort of things you want to see & do & how much of an escort you really require. Despite the language barrier, Japan is very doable on your own, IF you're a planner! What time of year are you going? Where do you want to travel? Tokyo, Kyoto and perhaps Koya-san, mentioned by someone in the other posting, it's just uniquely incredible. About a Ryokan in Tokyo, I would save that experience for Kyoto or the countryside.

I would haunt the library & browse a variety of travel guides. I like having a printed guide book in my hand when I travel to a new destination. I think Fodor's and Frommer's are excellent suggestions, but for the actual trip, I use DK Eyewitness guides because it give a semi-3D view of sites & I like the visual.

Consider flying in & out of Haneda if you can, it's much closer to downtown Tokyo, and even a short taxi ride to some areas. We stayed at Mitsui Garden Hotel in Gotanda, Tokyo a few years ago, it was around $150 per night, breakfast was AMAZING and the service was equally wonderful. Maybe a 3-star, impeccably clean & on the top floors, great view from the lobby. Gotanda is on the Yamanote circle line that will get you around Tokyo & connects to the subway system. It's nice to be above ground & see the views. Hope you have a fabulous trip!

Posted by
4586 posts

the "Big 3" that most people want to see, or end up seeing, are Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Nara is close to Kyoto so that's usually included as well. Definitely try to visit Nikko which is a daytrip from Tokyo, it's actually out in the mountains in the countryside and gives you a sense of the non-urban Japan.

Posted by
959 posts

The price of rail passes has gone up significantly very recently. No longer the “good deal” it was.

Even prior to the price rise, I was never able to use a pass for money-savings. Everything is dependent on the itinerary.

Posted by
169 posts

I am going at end of March 2024 for the first time (finally after I had to cancel my 2020 trip!) and am currently planning as well.

I really like Rick's books for Europe and the app for self guided tours. Was also hoping to find something similar for Japan.

I just found a book that looks promising for Tokyo called Tokyo Maze which has a bunch of self guided walking routes which looks similar to the self guided walks I enjoyed in Rick's books. Might be something to check out. If I buy it and use it, I'll report back.

Posted by
11368 posts

Buy a copy of Yukari Sakamoto’s Food Saki Tokyo for wonderful information on the foods of Japan plus more. We hired Yukari for a walking food tour of Tokyo, highly recommend it!
www. foodsaketokyo.com

Posted by
318 posts

Also planning a trip to Japan for the spring. I found the Lonely Planet Japan book with its 926 pages to be overwhelming. Instead, I am using Frommers Easy Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Western Honshu. Admittedly, it doesn't cover everything, but I think it will be a great first trip to Japan for us. Hope this helps.

Posted by
19 posts

I traveled to Japan in May. I had the Lonely Planet guidebook and it was NOT helpful for pre-planning or on the ground. Met another traveller who agreed and we joked about how bad it was.

We relied most heavily on japan-guide.com.

And also spent many a Saturday night watching travel vlogs on YouTube.

Posted by
169 posts

Interesting you say that about the LP book. I've held off on that because I have seen other complaints saying it's just got way too much info that I guess is not relevant or makes for information overload and so it just ends up not being helpful. I agree japan-guide.com is great.

Posted by
335 posts

I've been to Japan numerous times, and I always prefer the Rough Guide as my primary guidebook although I'll look at others. Right now I'm also reading a Lonely Planet, but might pick up a third.

Posted by
1 posts

I came here seeking the same advice. I purchased lonely planet Japan and I am so underwhelmed. There is so much information but so little depth that I am finding it nearly useless. I find Rick’s guidebooks so insightful, easy to navigate, and filled with tips it’s hard being satisfied whenever I turn to the other companies offerings. Will keep looking for suggestions.

Posted by
33 posts

I went to Japan for the first time in 2019. I watched a lot of Youtube videos to help me prepare. Most of my time was spent meeting my mom's family, who was from Japan. We went to Kyoto, Nara, met one of our exchange students in Kamakura for the day, Tokyo, Mito, Hitachinaka (family visit), and Nikko (on the way to visit another family member). I decided against a rail pass because of the cost. We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. My cousin drove us to some sites but we mostly used the trains. We got on one train going the wrong way from Kyoto to Nara but had no trouble asking for help and finding the right one to get on. In Tokyo and Kyoto we mostly walked, took the trains using an IC card or took a Japan Taxi using their app when I was just too tired to walk back to where we were staying from the train station. I was in my late 50s then and have ankle issues from an old sprain but still managed to walk most places.

My grown kids and I are going back next year and we are thinking of going further north and south of Tokyo. There are too many tourists in the Tokyo area and I want to avoid it for the most part. We went in September and it was extremely hot and humid. I wouldn't go in the summer months, if you're going to the Tokyo area. The only good thing is there are vending machines and convenience stores everywhere so finding something to drink is no problem.

Posted by
16873 posts

The only good thing is there are vending machines and convenience stores everywhere so finding something >to drink is no problem.

But then figuring out what it is you are buying can be a problem, especially with vending machines. Start by learning to distinguish the indicators for hot and cold beverages, and go from there. And hope you get what you wanted! (Or ask a helpful bystander).

Posted by
783 posts

Frommers was great for Toyko, but I can't speak for their coverage of the rest of the country. We enjoyed the walking tours they suggest.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Rose. As I lead small tours to Japan, my favorite resources for are:
https://www.japan-guide.com/
You can literally get lost on this sight with it's useful information. As far as hard guide books, Lonely Planet are the Rick Steve's of Asia. They were the first to do guidebooks for the Asian countries. Unfortunately, not a lot of photos so if you are more of a photo person, try Insight Guides. Hope this is helpful.

Posted by
4 posts

This is our second trip to Japan (going in March). I find it helpful to go to the library and grab all the books on where we are going. Then I weed through them to pick out things we are interested in. Then tons of Youtube videos help narrow it down. My boys (19 & 23) are into anime and video game stuff. I found there were books in the teen section that gave travel ideas I hadn't thought of. Fun read too. A couple were Tokyo Geek's Guide and A Manga Lover's Tokyo Travel Guide. The second one I read (it's in manga form) and it had tons of great info on places to eat and places to visit. So grab all the books and look through them. You never know. I do like using Rick Steves guides and having that pullout map, but I used google maps and made our daily walkable itinerary and it made it less overwhelming. I do have a blog where I include our travel destinations. You can see what we did in Tokyo and Kyoto if you are interested. nunezfamilytravel.com is the name. I am currently looking through the Fodor's Tokyo guide. It's underwhelming. Look up places then youtube it. It gives you a better idea if it's something you would want to spend your time getting to. And the trains are easy to navigate. Googlemaps gives you directions. If you miss a train, there is another coming shortly after. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
32 posts

I am going to Japan in the fall. Avid user of Rick Steves guidebooks , online tools and videos so I relate to the dilemma here. I went to the library and checked out every Japan guidebook. I liked Moon the best- good info, I like the way information is displayed and it’s not bulky. I used my library version to plan the itinerary but won’t purchase a guidebook until closer to our departure. Look forward to hearing from folks who have been to Japan and have used a guidebook they would recommend. Agree that for planning the Japan- Guide site, TA, and vlogs on you tube are really helpful.

Posted by
2489 posts

I liked Moon the best- good info, I like the way information is displayed and it’s not bulky.

Moon is surprisingly good. They don't get as much attention as the bigger names, but I've used them too.