: The rough guide to japan (japan (rough guides), 1999) (9781858283401) : Jan Dodd, Simon Richmond : Books
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The Rough Guide To Japan (japan (rough Guides), 1999)

by Jan Dodd, Simon Richmond
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Rough Guides
  • Publishing date: 01/04/1999
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781858283401
  • ISBN: 185828340x



For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated in making up for lost time since the world came calling. Anyone who's eaten sushi or used a Sony Walkman feels they know something about this slinky archipelago of some 6800 volcanic islands tucked away off the far eastern coast of Asia, and yet, from the moment of arrival in this oddly familiar, quintessentially Oriental land it's almost as if you've touched down on another planet.

Japan is a place of ancient gods and customs, but is also the cutting edge of cool modernity. High-speed trains whisk you from one end of the country to another with frightening punctuality. You can catch sight of a farmer tending his paddy field, then turn the corner and find yourself next to a neon-festooned electronic games parlour in the suburb of a sprawling metropolis. One day you could be picking through the fashions in the biggest department store on earth, the next relaxing in an outdoor hot-spring pool, watching cherry blossom or snow flakes fall, depending on the season.

Few other countries have, in the space of mere generations, experienced so much or made such an impact. Industrialized at lightning speed, Japan shed its feudal trappings to become the most powerful and outwardly aggressive country in Asia in a matter of decades. After defeat in World War II, it transformed itself from atom bomb victim to wonder economy, the envy of the globe. Currently facing up to recession and rising unemployment after years of conspicuous consumption, Japan still remains fabulously wealthy and intent on reinvention for the twenty-first century, when, together with South Korea, it will become the first Asian nation to host soccer's World Cup in 2002.

You don't want to wait until then to visit, though. Given the devalued yen and lower prices, Japan is now more attractive than ever to anyone keen to see just what makes this extraordinary country tick. It's never going to be a cheap place to travel, but there's no reason why it should be wildly expensive either. Some of the most atmospheric and traditionally Japanese places to stay and eat are often those that are the best value.

In the cities you'll first be struck by the mass of people. In this mountainous country, one and a half times the size of Britain, the vast majority of the 126 million population live on the crowded coastal plains of the main island of Honshu. The three other main islands, running north to south, are Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu, and all are linked to Honshu by bridges and tunnels that are part of one of Japan's modern wonders - its efficient transport network of trains and highways.

If you're after the latest buzz, the hippest fashions and technologies, and a worldwide selection of food, head for the exciting, overwhelming metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka. The cities are also the best places in which to sample Japan's traditional performance arts, such as Kabuki and No plays, to catch the titanic clash of sumo wrestlers, and track down the wealth of Japanese visual arts in the major museums.

Outside the cities, from the wide open spaces and deep volcanic lakes of Hokkaido, blanketed by snow every winter, to the balmy sub-tropical islands of Okinawa, there's a vast range of other holiday options, including hiking, skiing, scuba diving and surfing. You'll seldom have to travel far to catch sight of a lofty castle, ancient temple or shrine, or locals celebrating at a colourful street festival. The Japanese are inveterate travellers within their own country and there's hardly a town or village, no matter how small or plain, that doesn't boast some unique attraction.

It's not all perfect, though. Experts on focusing on detail (the exquisite wrapping of gifts and the tantalizing presentation of food are just two examples), the Japanese often miss the broader picture. Rampant development and sometimes appalling pollution is difficult to square with a country also renowned for cleanliness and appreciation of nature. Part of the problem is that natural cataclysms, such as earthquakes and typhoons, regularly hit Japan, so few people expect things to last for long anyway. There's also a blindness to the pernicious impact of mass tourism, with ranks of gift shops, ugly hotels and crowds often ruining potentially idyllic spots.

And yet, time and again, Japan redeems itself with unexpectedly beautiful landscapes, charmingly courteous people, and its tangible sense of history and cherished traditions. Most intriguing of all is the opaqueness at the heart of this mysterious "hidden" culture that stems from a blurring of traditional boundaries between East and West - Japan is neither wholly one nor the other.

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  • It's descriptions are the best
    From Amazon

    When we were planning our trip to Japan, we purchased The Rough Guide to Japan, The Lonely Planet Guide to Tokyo, and The Time Out Guide to Tokyo. If I had depended on the descriptions in The Lonely Planet Guide to decide what would be fun to do or see, I would never have left home. The same items described in The Rough Guide were much more intriguing. Mostly I chose what to see and do based on The Rough Guide. Other items I picked from descriptions in The Time Out Guide. It's strength was the culture of modern Japan, specifically things relating to anime, manga, cosplay, etc. Rough Guide covers some of these things, but not in such depth.

    None of these books, however, mentioned the Godzilla statue in Tokyo. Admittedly, the statue is small and there's nothing to do other than take a picture, but how can you go to Tokyo and not say hi to Godzilla?

    When we were in Tokyo, the maps in The Lonely Planet Guide were much more detailed and helpful than those in the other two books. But keep in mind that Tokyo is only a small part of The Rough Guide to Japan. I don't know how The Rough Guide to Tokyo would compare. In Matsumoto, the only place we managed to get to outside of the Greater Tokyo/Yokohama area, The Rough Guide's map got us from the train station to the wonderful castle, Matsumoto-jo, without any trouble.

    To sum up, faced with only six days in Japan (plus a day each way for travel), the Rough Guide was invaluable for deciding what we wanted to see, what we could manage to see, and which things would be worth hours on the train to get to.

  • Frustrating and disappointing book, especially for independent travelers
    From Amazon

    I cannot recommend this as a good travel guide to Japan, especially for independent travelers, as the book is not helpful with daily planning and navigation. I used it for a 25-day independent tour of Japan and found it so frustrating that I tossed it in the trash before I came home instead of keeping it to proudly display on my bookshelf with my other travel books. The maps are a complete waste of space: many streets are not labeled and the maps often do not appear near the narrative discussing the area, so you have to page back and forth. Maps for specific sightseeing areas such as Arashiyama in Kyoto are not included (where I really could have used a map and I noticed that Lonely Planet provided one), and the maps that are provided contain various errors. One of the main maps of the entire country has the locations of Osaka and Nara switched - an inaccusable error and one that leads me to believe that the book was not well edited. There are also various errors of omission. Fushimi Inari is not discussed in the Kyoto section, which I found strange, as it's one of Kyoto's most photographed and fascinating sites, it's easy to get to, and it's free. I rarely used the recommendations for places to eat as I found they were often not applicable for budget travelers and unrepresentative of local tastes and habits. For example, usually for every city one curry or Indian food place and an Anglo-style pub is recommended. I would rather the author's individual preferences not be so obvious and more precious space be spent on recommendations for what locals typically eat and enjoy. Similarly, the nightlife and cafe recommendations really miss the mark and are out of touch with Japan's more modern, hip, and youthful scenes. Too many run-of-the-mill gaijin haunts are suggested. I found the best places on my own. Honestly, overall the whole book seems geared towards travelers over 40. I did enjoy one of the sections in the back that summarizes Japan's religious life and history and explains well what you see at shrines and temples, but incidentally, this section was not written by one of the book's main authors or contributors. This book might be OK if you are traveling with a group tour or staying with friends for most of the time and just want some supplemental information, but if you are traveling independently and relying on a guide book to get you around and show you the modern as well traditional heart of a place, I believe you are much better off with Lonely Planet.

  • Pretty Good
    From Amazon

    This was a good book for my trip to Japan. It provided excellent commentary on history and sites, which I read before visiting temples and shrines. I stayed at two of the accomodation selections in Kyoto and found them to be right on target with the write up. It also is helpful for traveling within the country as it has accurate prices and routes. The maps were a good overview of the area, though they could be better organized with the text. I can't give it 5 stars because of the map organization and because I only used it for three places in Japan. A good resource!

  • One of the best English guides to Japan
    From Amazon

    We have lived in Japan for 14 of the last 20 years and have spent the last 11 years living in Tokyo. Over that period of time, we have bought and used Lonely Planet, Fodors, National Geographic, and several less well known guides to Japan and specific cities. Of course the best guides to Japan are written in Japanese, and there are many of them. However, if you are like us, looking for an English guide, we have consistently found the Rough Guide to Japan (third edition) to be one of the best books available, particularly if you are hoping to visit smaller cities in outlying regions. It covers many more cities than will a Fodors or National Geographic, although you will not have the glossy photos of some of the other books. In a guide of this size, complete coverage of Japan's geography, history, culture, and attractions is simply impossible. And there will always be a few errors and omissions. Nonetheless, this is simply one of the best guides you can find for trips that include visits to more remote regions of Japan.

    We have used this guide book for trips to Okinawa and outlying islands; Hiroshima, Himeji, Okayama, Matsue, and elsewhere in the San'in / San'yo region, and to Matsumoto and the Kiso Valley. The regional maps are good; the city maps are just ok. We have found the material on transport informative and useful. The information on hotels and restaurants is incomplete, but is more comprehensive than just about any other guide out there, and the recommendations and reviews for hotels are accurate and useful. It lists the major sights, and picks up many notable sights in the smaller cities that are completely forgotten by most other guides. One thing we like about this book is that it tells you where to find more information once you arrive at each city or station.

    * If you are looking for a solid general reference that offers as much coverage as possible in one English language book, it is hard to go wrong with the Rough Guide to Japan.
    * However, if you want to be comprehensive, you'll need to use this book in conjunction with other references and material. The internet is often a good source of recommendations and up to the minute information. Maps published in Japan, some available in both Japanese and English, others only in Japanese, are also very helpful. If you have the time and money to consider other books, the following would complement the Rough Guide to Japan:
    - Gateway to Japan (Kodansha). It's old (1998), but still very useful for remote cities and attractions. There will be a fair amount of overlap, and the Rough Guide will be more up to date, but this book is one of the best for trips to outlying areas.
    - National Geographic Traveler Japan. Good photos and walking routes, but the coverage is nowhere near the level of the Rough Guide. Together, they make a good set.

    Hope this helps!

  • Not useful
    From Amazon

    Filled with inaccurate information, lack of good, accurate maps. It was almost completely useless. Never again I will buy another Rough Guide. Long live Lonely Planet.

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