I browsed through this guidebook in the bookstore before I bought it and was really impressed with how it covered almost all areas of Japan, provided ample maps and photographs, and had lots of practical detail information, like on lodgings, cheap meals, and unique attractions. Once I bought the book and started reading/researching for my trip, I was even more pleased with it as I thought it was written in a casual and practical style, giving ample hints and pointers to the best of the best and more than a few offbeat and unusual things to see in Japan. I bought my Japan Rail Pass and airline ticket and with this guidebook in hand, I had the most fun, interesting, relaxing, remarkable and indeed amazing trip of my life through the magical land of Japan. In every city (at every rail stop) I consulted this book and felt fortunate to have experienced some of the wondrous not-to-be-missed sites and attractions thanks to this book. It was an excellent resource, and I highly recommend it.
If I had to mention any minor criticisms of the book, I'd just have to mention that the author's tastes/preferences in food differ a bit from mine, and I found some of his restaurant recommendations questionable. But that's a personal choice matter. Of course, his general recommendation to look for good eats near railway stations and in the basements of large department stores was absolutely true, and I found lots of great, delicious foods that I liked. Also, a large section of the book is devoted to railroad timetables and itineraries, and though it might be very useful to some people, I had a very enjoyable time being a more casual and free form traveler, just choosing whether to step onto a train or not on a whim. I personally found this section unnecessary. He mentions that there are 3 types of Shinkansen ("bullet trains"), the Kodoma, the Hikari and the Nozomi, but he doesn't really explain the difference between the trains. The Kodoma (meaning echo) is the slowest of the Shinkansen, stopping at every train station, hence represented by the "speed of sound". The Hikari (meaning shining light flash) is the intermediate speed Shinkansen that makes only limited stops in the biggest cities, hence represented by the "speed of light". The Nozomi (meaning hope) is the fastest of the Shinkansen and tend to go non-stop from one major destination to another i.e. Osaka to Tokyo, hence are represented by the "speed of thought". Finally, I had two particularly thrilling and entertaining special events on my trip. I attended a pro baseball game, and I witnessed the Hamamatsu Kite Festival. Though both are briefly mentioned in this book, the author does not convey how exciting, energetic, and moving these experiences are when witnessed firsthand. I've never seen anything like it! Japanese baseball fans are insane (yelling, singing, banging sticks for the whole game)! I thought perhaps because the author is a Brit that baseball was not really an interest. The Kite Festival was just beyond words (like a half million yelling, bugle blowing, drum beating Japanese in traditional costume flying giant kites in 60 man teams on this giant sand dune park, with a double row a quarter mile long of food, game, souvenir, and beer stands). And that's just the beginning of the revelry. It was truly interesting to see the Japanese people losing all their inhibitions and just going jubilantly wild at these events. All I'm saying is that the author should better emphasize that these Festivals and games are truly amazing in Japan.