A note: I had the third edition and used it extensively and found it very useful in my 4 years in Japan.
This is a really great guide book with a wide selection of things to do in various places. Japan is split into 11 areas which makes it easy to plan a longer vacation. It has great background on a lot of attractions and good recommendations at the beginning of each section. I have always liked the rough guide and I am happy to see including some different sights. Some sights are still a little bare on information but they have tried to make up for it by recommending good internet ...続きを読む ›
Take it from hardened sceptic - yes, the book excellent2003/7/23
It is an uphill struggle to get me to praise a Rough Guide. I have written many unkind words here about many other books in the series - dull righting, self-righteous tone, preachy ambition - and I stand by what I had said. I continue to feel that travel is a happy business and guidebooks should be written by people who are positive and cheerful, not by grumpy and cruffy backpackers with enormous aptitude for righting the world and with handfuls of easy answers to every question of Third World economic developent. I am also convinced that a guide is not a forum for political campaigning. So you can imagine I approached Rough Guide Japan with very, very low expectations. However, I can now say that whatever is wrong with other Rough Guides (poor writing quality, excruciating boredom, naive anti-capitalist rhetoric), you will not find it in this book. Whatever they do right (detailed research, up-to-date info, accurate maps) - there is plenty of it, heaps, loads, all you need! My God they are good. In Japan, they are better than DK Eyewitness, my long-time favorite for most destinations. They even finally sorted their writing - it is readable, and you don't fall asleep after first three passages. I find very little to fault in this book: the maps are accurate, listings exhaustive and detailed, and they have most of the practicalities covered, unlike Lonely Planet, who still live firmly in their senile eigthties as far as any transport and banking information is concerned. And let me repeat this (listen all of you who, like me, detested Rough Guides for their oversized egos and belief that they have a role in fixing the world) - there is no usual garbage about how capitalism and tourism ruined a beautuful country. All the annoying whining is gone. The authors really like Japan, they admire it and help you to enjoy your trip. That's all I am asking for. The only remarks would be that there could be more photos, and please, PLEASE, change those heart-stoppingly ugly chapter icons and tacky logo. I know you at Rough Guide use those icons everywhere, they're part of the design, but believe me they are hideous. Those drawings look exactly like something that adorned local authority leaflets cautioning against vices of drugs and smoking 20 years ago. And your logo looks like a fire exit sign. I wrote earlier that DK Eyewitness Japan, although not perfect, was the best. Well, now I have read and used both DK Eyewitness and Rough Guide in the field. Rough Guide is much better. In fact, this Rough Guide is so good that, despite my earlier promises not to touch them with barge-pole, I will be checking out Rough Guide for all my future destinations.
Informative and helpful2005/1/4
Although I tend to favour Lonely Planet over the Rough Guide, in the case of Japan, the Rough Guide is definitely preferable, and this is increasingly the case now that the latest edition of the Lonely Planet has cut coverage of lots of off-the-beaten-track areas. The Rough Guide to Japan has the edge is conveying the feel of the places covered. I have lived in Japan for more than two years and the guide was practical and sensible on my first trips to Hiroshima and Kyoto - I still find it informative and helpful when I travel around the country now, after substantial experience of Japan. One caveat - while the coverage of such cultural sites as temples and castles is very thorough, the author is obviously not that interested in painting or sculpture. Museum after museum is dismissed for being overpriced, often when the entrance fees are, by Japanese standards, really very reasonable (600 yen or so). Some readers might be put off visiting interesting museums by this bias.
Japan is a fascinating and frustrating country. So much of its natural beauty and traditional architecture has been destroyed, but it remains an endlessly intriguing place. It deserves more visitors than it gets, but many people are put off by two main difficulties: expenses, and the scarcity of English speakers, especially outside the main cities. The Rough Guide gives useful tips on reasonably priced and pleasant accommodation; I have rarely been disappointed by a hotel or traditional inn they recommend. It also gives detailed explanations of how to get around off the beaten track, which should ease the path for the non-Japanese speaker. Newcomers and veterans alike should have few complaints.
Best Guide Book on Japan2004/2/4
C. E. Stevens
The Rough Guide is hands down the best travel guide on Japan. The writing is fresh and informative, the practical information is up to date and helpful, and the data is accurate. For the amount of material covered, the depth is amazing ... From Hokkaido to the islands of Okinawa you can navigate the entire country with just this book. And not just "navigate", but plan what to see, where to eat, and where to stay with a variety of options. The main complaints previous reviewers have concern the occasional mistake and the lack of pictures. Of course, when you try to summarize an entire country in a thousand pages there will be mistakes and omissions, and of course information will go out of date. Which is why you should always double check your sources, or be prepared to roll with the punches. Most places have websites and even the smallest cities in Japan have at least a little bit of tourist information in English. If you're spending the time and money to come all the way to Japan, what does it hurt to spend a little bit of extra time on the internet double checking the details on places you want to see. The same goes for pictures. Personally, I'd rather wait until I get to a place and see for myself what something looks like, but when it comes to pictures (or maps) the internet is a treasure trove of information. No matter how well you plan things, there will always be hangups. Traffic is bad. A place you want to see is taking the day off. A bar you want to go to has closed its doors. The best you can do is get as much information ahead of time and hope for the best. From my experience living in Japan, if you are going to rely on one main source for your travel information in Japan, use the Rough Guide. It's better than anything else out there.
Lonely Planet Remake / Kindle2002/2/12
This is a book in the LP- or Moon guides- type vein: information for the individual traveler looking for places to go, stay, and eat. It is not the Fodor- or Insight Guides-type that is filled with nothing but big glossy pictures with some history about the big tourist places to visit. In other words, if you're taking a package tour, most of the info contained here isn't necessary. However, if you travel, as opposed to being a 1-week book-a-tour tourist, this book contains information that will help you find places to stay and how to get to them, as well as the souvenir stops.
I purchased this book in the hopes that I could find out about places other than those that were already covered in Lonely Planet Japan. However, place for place it covers almost the exact same ground with about a 95% plus overlap. There are a few hotels/ryokan that are not listed between the two and a few places that are in one but not the other (i.e. Goto Islands in LP but not RG). I was disappointed; not that much is different.
Its strengths lie in its writing style, which is not as abrupt as LP, its maps which are simpler (this can also be a detriment), its context chapter at the end, and its having the area codes on all the telephone numbers (very annoying in LP where you have to find the beginning of the section to find the area code).
Weaknesses include an inconsistent subtitling for basic information. For example, in some chapters, hotels are under "Practicalities" and in others it's under "Accomodations." This slows you down a bit until you get used to it. Another is the hotel pricing system. As anyone who's been around the inexpensive hotels in Japan knows, pricing is done per person, and not per couple (double or twin). Even a "discount double" is often only Y500 less than 2 singles. Many business hotels have very limited twin and double accomodations, being mostly singles (Hotel Hawaii in Akita has over 300 singles but 9 doubles or so). In some ryokan/minshuku rooms, a double price is misleading because if you squeeze a 3rd or 4th person in the room, you pay for each person. A Y5000 per person room is only Y5000 with one person, but Y20,000 with 4. That said, the Rough Guide at least has a few different accomodation listings from Lonely Planet, but not always. Train and bus connections are sometimes hard to find as they are only at the end of main divisions, and not at each destination. I would mark them with post-its or just get a JNTO rail schedule at Narita.
In conclusion, look over the maps and styles, but don't get both the Rough Guide AND the LP Japan; they both fill the same niche in travel books. Pick the one that looks good to you and you'll have a useful tool. If you want the pretty photos and all your hotels and meals are already paid for, you don't need this guide or the LP guide.
November 2012 update (Amazon wouldn't let me review the Kindle edition separately. The above review is about the 2nd edition which is quite old now): I purchased the Kindle edition in May 2012 to see how using it would be not having to carry a larger paper copy. I tried using it a few times in Japan but just gave up. If you try to find something on your way it's not going to be easy. 1) The navigation is nearly impossible. If you know you want to find a certain temple or place, there is no index or link that will take you there. You have to go to "Kyoto" or "Tokyo" from the ToC and then page through until you (may) find what you're looking for. 2) As stated elsewhere, the maps are nearly unreadable. The "zoom" feature doesn't help. The clunky navigation and useless graphics make this only a readable book, and not a travel tool. Get the book if you're on the road. (Lowered to 3 stars due to the almost useless Kindle edition)
Thoroughly researched and well presented2005/9/18
The best guide to Japan, from a resident of ten years in Hokkaido. I'm not refering to the coverage of Hokkaido, which is better than most guides available, but of the entire country. Should a visitor wish to see off the beaten track destinations, this guide will help to take you there. The information is up to date and almost any aspect of travel in Japan, and difficulties of travel in Japan--there are many--is covered.
Incidentally, but importantly, I'd like to point out that there is an error in an earlier review, which may or may not any longer be part of this list. An earlier reviewer gave an extremely low rating, which influences the entire average ratings total, based only on his reading of a few movie synopses contained within the book. Claiming the movie descriptions were wrong, he gives two examples. One of those examples was in error, because two movies called "Black Rain" have been made: one earlier movie was,just as the reviewer claimed, about the atomic bombings and their terrible aftermath. However, another more recent movie with the same title starred Michael Douglas and was indeed, contrary to the reviewer's critique, a suspense drama concerning Japanese yakuza. I have included this information so that no one should be influenced, when deciding whether or not to buy the book, by an inappropriately given rating of only a single star which must have dragged down the average ratings as a whole.