Lonely Planet Country Guide Discover Japan (Lonely Planet Discover Japan) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2013/11
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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher Lonely Planet's Discover Japan is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Uncover the delights of Japanese cuisine, bask in the awesome gaze of the country's best temples, lower yourself into the tub in a classic Japanese onsen; all with your trusted travel companion. Discover the best of Japan and begin your journey now! Inside Lonely Planet's Discover Japan: *Full-color maps and images throughout *Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests *Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots *Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices *Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss *Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including history, art, architecture, onsen, ryokan. *Free, convenient pull-out Tokyo map (included in print version), plus over 25 color maps *Useful features - including Walking Tours, What's New, and Month by Month (annual festival calendar) *Coverage of Tokyo, Kyoto, Japan Alps, Nara, Miyajima, and more The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Discover Japan, our easy-to-use guide, is perfect for travelers who seek the most popular attractions a destination has to offer. Filled with inspiring and colorful photos, this guide focuses on the best of the best. * Looking for a comprehensive guide that recommends a wide range of experiences, both popular and offbeat, and extensively covers all the country has to offer? Check out Lonely Planet's Japan guide. * Looking for a guide for Tokyo? Check out Lonely Planet's Tokyo guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer; or Lonely Planet's Pocket Tokyo, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip. Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet and Chris Rowthorn. About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travelers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in. TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category 'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' -The New York Times 'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' -Fairfax Media (Australia)
Just as a little bit of background, I lived in Japan for two years (one year in Yokohama, one on the rural island of Shikoku), speak the language, and have traveled extensively in the country from Hokkaido to the southern reaches of Okinawa and many places in between. I say this to give background on my perspective, and perhaps explain why I tend to be tough on tour books on Japan: if they skimp on key details or omit a place that a tourist should know about, I tend to notice. And, Discover Japan does omit some places, but nothing criminal for the average tourist who will concentrate largely on Honshu (if, however, you plan to concentrate primarily on one of the other islands--Kyushu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, or the delightful Okinawa--this guide is likely not for you). I really have to applaud this book's emphasis on Central Honshu: Takayama and Kanazawa are fascinating towns, and the natural beauty is incredible as well. The temples, onsen, ryokan, etc. are no less impressive than those in Tokyo and Kyoto, but because they're more off the beaten path, they tend to be less expensive, less crowded, and more personal than those in the bigger tourist draws. I recently reviewed another guide that almost completely omitted this part of Japan ... which is grossly negligent, considering any visitor with at least a week in Japan should at least consider going to this region. Honestly, if you're more interested in traditional Japan than modern Japan, and your time is limited, you might even consider concentrating on Kyoto and then prioritizing Central Honshu over Tokyo (as unconventional as that might sound).
Some other "pros" to this book:
* There is an emphasis on *experiences* as much as *sights*, and rightfully so. I really think Japan is as much about experiences as it is "must see sights"--odds are, it will be your first dip in an onsen, or a kaiseki meal, or a meditative stay at a temple on Mt. Koya, or walk through the food floor of a department store, or walk through one of the temple "shopping streets" (e.g. the one leading up to Sensoji in Asakusa or Kiyomizudera in Kyoto), or maybe a stroll through the pop culture meccas of Harajuku or Akihabara that will be your lasting impression of the country. This guide does a good job of bringing these to your attention, and recommending them in their itineraries. I think one of the keys to enjoying Japan is understanding what YOU enjoy and building your itinerary with that in mind: if you're spending 5 days in and around Tokyo, the places I'd prioritize for someone interested in the traditional side of Japan (e.g. Sensoji, Meiji Shrine, Kamakura, Nikko, museums, onsen, kabuki, etc.) would be quite different from those I'd recommend to someone more interested in modern pop culture (e.g. a trip to Robot Restaurant, people watching in Harajuku, a visit to a maid cafe in the "otaku" heaven of Akihabara). This might be blasphemy to some, but I'd argue that Japan has no sights that EVERY traveler "must see" ... rather, what the "must see" or "must do" experiences are different and depend on the individual traveler.
* Good "helpful tips" along the way that really should be MUST READS for first time (and even second or third time) travelers to Japan. Being familiar with the Suica card and/or rail passes, understanding how restaurants and onsen "work" (and not being intimidated by them!), knowing that post office ATMs can be among the most reliable for travelers, etc. makes your trip less frustrating and more fun.
* Good coverage of locations, especially for someone spending less than 3 weeks in Japan and/or focusing primarily on Honshu. It's not *perfect* coverage (more on this below) but I think it will give most people enough coverage of sights, hotels, restaurants, etc. for what they need.
It's not all rainbows and unicorns, however ... I have some grumbles as well (but, these are mainly minor nuisances rather than fatal flaws):
* More walking tours would be nice ... Tokyo is less a city than a collection of distinct neighborhoods, and the key to enjoying (and understanding) them is to stroll through them. If you find yourself turning into a "prairie dog" (i.e. taking the subway to one sight, popping your head up, then heading right back underground to take the subway to another) you're missing some of the fun of Japan.
* Even for the main tourist cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, coverage is not perfect. Personally, I'd recommend taking along some supplemental guides depending on your interests (some of my favorites include "Food Sake Tokyo", Diane Durston's Kyoto books ... I'd shy away from things like "Lonely Planet Tokyo" if you already have this guide ... often, there aren't that many differences between the "country" and "city" guides)
* More, and more detailed, maps. Many of this guide's maps are too vague: you need more landmarks, more information, and more detail. Odds are, you'll not find half of the interesting little alleyways and shops in the area around Kiyomizudera if you're squinting at the "Southern Higashiyama" map. Kamakura is a nice walkable town, but only if you have a map!
* There are a few places that I believe deserve more detail (or are omitted entirely). Kamakura is one: although it does get a few pages, I think it deserves more: the Daibutsu here is just as impressive as the one in Nara (and the outdoor setting is arguably more dramatic), the little shopping lane that runs parallel to the main street deserves mention--this is a great place for souvenirs ranging from pottery to tenugui "hand towels", and I would argue that for anyone who can't make it to Arashiyama in Kyoto, the bamboo forest at Hokokuji is a must-see. I'm probably biased because I lived in Yokohama, but I never cease to wonder why Osaka always gets a decent amount of coverage in Japan guide books but Yokohama barely a mention (if anything). If you're doing a day trip to Kamakura from Tokyo, consider a sunset cruise of Yokohama's harbor on the "Sea Bass" and have a delicious meal in Yokohama's large and charming Chinatown (and maybe a drink at the top of Landmark Tower--not cheap, but incredible views) before heading back to Tokyo. Finally, if you're going down to Okinawa and have the time to go to the Yaeyama islands, do so ... in particular, I love the island of Taketomi.
* The suggested itineraries have good ideas, but are often too ambitious. Japan is as much about the journey as the destinations; as a result, less is often more. Don't try to do too much, and you'll end up enjoying yourself more.
Thanks for bearing with this long review. Overall, while not perfect, I actually like this guide quite a bit. Personally, of the English-language options that I'm aware of at least, I consider this and the Rough Guide my favorites (with a slight nod to the Rough Guide, as it has more detailed information). I'm sure Lonely Planet is afraid of cannibalizing its flagship series, but if this "Discover" series pushed the information-to-pictures ratio just a little bit more toward the "information" side, I'd consider this just about perfect.