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5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant.
I struggled between this and my usual Rough Guides, but decided on this one as i read advise which recommended the most up to date/published last.
I have been impressed with this guide 2 Japan - and have found it very helpful in giving summaries of areas (when looking at where to book a hotel!) and also good maps so I can see how near various tourist attractions...
Published on 27 Dec. 2012 by Tasha

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lonely Planet, you've lost your way
I bought the book, not the Kindle version. I have used Lonely Planet guides for various countries over a number of years but found this latest version for Japan really disappointing.

They no longer separate accommodation into budget/midrange/top end, in fact there doesn't seem to be any budget options given and most reviews tend to be top end. If I could afford...
Published on 7 Dec. 2011 by Felicia Yeow

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lonely Planet, you've lost your way, 7 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
I bought the book, not the Kindle version. I have used Lonely Planet guides for various countries over a number of years but found this latest version for Japan really disappointing.

They no longer separate accommodation into budget/midrange/top end, in fact there doesn't seem to be any budget options given and most reviews tend to be top end. If I could afford top end hotels I don't need to buy a guide book to tell me which top end hotel to use!

The maps and legend were terrible - references in the description of sights are sometimes not found on the map or it's wrong. Something needs to be done on quality control or editing. I found it very difficult to use the maps compared to other LP guide books I've used.

It also seemed that the way this LP is written that they assume you know how the public transport system work or indeed how to get to some of the sights! They also take the lazy option of not publishing the subway maps for other cities, except for Tokyo in a pull out map, and say pick up a free map when you arrive. This doesn't help if you want to do detail planning.

Usually I would be quite confident in embarking on a self travel trip after using an LP guide for reference and planning, but not this time. Not happy with the new format, style and lack of quality.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle, 28 July 2012
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Do yourself a favour if you are thinking of buying the kindle version of this book and buy the paper version instead.
Graphics are useless and index is very difficult to use. I gave up on it and bought the paperback halfway through my holiday.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some critical thoughts on the LP Japan guide, 12th Edition, 2011, 9 Feb. 2012
By 
Richard Thomson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
The first line of the book ("your complete destination guide") is incorrect. No travel guide can ever been complete and this one doesn't even cover the whole country. The book assures the reader that Japan is open for travel after the earthquake (it is - and it wants tourists), but almost nothing is mentioned about the part of Tohoku that follows the shinkansen line between Tokyo and Hachinohe, a distance of 593 kms. I suppose this explains why the book is 80 pages shorter than the 11th edition. LP has effectively imposed its own exclusion zone on eastern Tohoku, and it's far larger than the area around the Fukushima atomic energy plant. It starts just north of Tokyo and goes through Sendai, Morioka, Hiraizumi and all their surrounding areas. Nikko remains (almost as an island) presumably because it's just too important to leave out. Like Tokyo. More of the region is open to tourists than the book allows. Japan itself has been promoting Tohoku as a tourist destination. For example, hundreds of participants of Tohoku festivals were sent to South Korea to perform in Seoul Plaza on 25 September 2011. LP hasn't thought through all the implications of leaving out the Tohoku shinkansen line. It becomes inconsistent: it continues to tell JR pass holders to use the line to Utsonomiya to get to Nikko. There are other problems too. Taking a ride on a shinkansen is now a major highlight for LP. But the best shinkansen ride available to JR pass holders (the fastest train, the longest distance without a stop) is precisely the Hayate from Tokyo to Sendai and Hachinohe which runs through LP's exclusion zone. It operates fully. LP continues to recommend the JR East Pass (P426) when the main route to use it on is, again, the Tohoku shinkansen line.

One of the few improved things about the book is that most of the hype that LP put on its covers for a few years (100% updated, 100% accurate, no one knows Japan like LP etc.) has been removed. No LP guide has ever been 100% updated or 100% accurate. Typically, LP recycles large amounts of material from edition to edition (examples are given below). There's a new very dubious strapline however ("Japan is a ... cultural Galapagos"), and we're told on the cover that the guide provides "comprehensive listings". Don't believe it. We're into the 12th edition of the guide but unnecessary shortcomings and errors continue. LP's information on matsuri (cultural, traditional festivals) is the weakest aspect of the book in my view. It's not the work of experts. LP puts a lot of effort into researching restaurants and bars (a fourteen page chapter is devoted to introducing food and drink), but its coverage of matsuri is lamentable. It will require quite a lot of evidence to justify this.

Japan is one of the best countries in the world for festivals, but LP still provides neither an accurate, coherent overview of the topic as a whole, nor well-researched, well-judged descriptions of the different types or of individual ones. LP makes three attempts to introduce matsuri but each is half-hearted and fails. The first column LP is required to fill on matsuri promises details on some of the wilder festivals in the country (P25). Four are listed but, embarrassingly, only one is relevant. LP is reduced to apologising that two of the selected four are not even festivals and that a third is `pretty tame'. Naming four `wild' matsuri is very easy. LP not only fails but, after admitting its failure, does nothing about it. The column has no point. The calendar of events (P27-30), now called "month by month", is no improvement on the poor effort in the 11th edition; in some ways it's even worse. It has become a mish-mash of too many things and it doesn't get very far. A lot of generalised weather reporting has been introduced for no obvious reason. We're now told July "can be very hot and humid" (after having just been told that July "can be pretty humid" (P20)). Gosh. Blandness stands out ("several interesting festivals happen in Japan in August") and avoidable errors occur (Golden Week is not an event of interest to tourists, Obon is not a matsuri and Shogatsu pointlessly appears twice). This is the one place in the book where LP could have provided some worthwhile information on matsuri but the opportunity is missed. LP manages to name only 11 matsuri here: not even one per month. LP presents two separate lists of the country's top five festivals (P27, P248) and they only partly match. It's an impossible task anyway: LP is just filling space, apparently satisfied to appear to provide information. You might expect Japan's biggest festivals to be highlighted. They're not - many are hidden away. You have to stumble on P310 to find a mention of Osaka's Tenjin matsuri - "one of Japan's three biggest festivals". The Rough Guide makes a much more reasonable effort to introduce and characterise matsuri, even if it's not totally successful. LP makes no attempt at all.

The structure of the rest of LP's information on matsuri leaves the reader to do the work - and it's not worth the effort. Most of the book follows the well-worn path of leading the tourist from place to place around the country so most of the festivals named in the book are only listed under the relevant town's heading. Festivals are not bars or restaurants: you don't find them just by going to a place. A listing of festivals only starts to make sense if it is ordered by date. This is the approach taken by the Japanese National Tourist Office. JNTO publishes an annual list of 74 major festivals (63 more than LP in its calendar), and follows this up with monthly newsletters, compiled very seriously by a wonderful lady at the Tokyo JNTO TIC. (Aside: this office moved on 2 Jan 2012 - the address given in the guide is now out of date.) These newsletters contain many hundreds of events and provide the best available information on matsuri in English. LP doesn't mention these publications. LP does provide a long list of festivals in the index but it's an irritating, confused mess. Ordering is random: some are listed by region or town/city name (Akita Kanto), some by the Japanese name of the festival (Nebuta) and some by generic terms both partly-relevant and irrelevant (ice, beer ...). Some are missed in error (Ningen Shogi in Tendo, P448), but entries only point to text that is hardly ever worth reading. Much better information can be found elsewhere for free.

LP leaves out major festivals. Sanno, Kanda, Fukagawa Hachiman, Chichibu Yomatsuri all appear in lists of important matsuri but are all ignored by the guide. Very poor lists appear under Tokyo and Kyoto. None are listed under Yokohama or Matsuyama. More significantly however, only festivals that take place in a town or city individually described in the book stand any chance of even being named. This is a significant weakness as many wonderful festivals in Japan take place in very ordinary towns of otherwise no interest to tourists (Omihachiman, Hachinohe, Gamagori, Omagari ...). The Rough Guide has recognised the Kounomiya shrine hadaka matsuri in Inazawa as a world-class event. It is. The BBC, LP's current owner, has even made a documentary there (though, like LP, it was more concerned with eating). This festival will probably never appear in the guide as it doesn't fit the template. This is just wrong. Small towns blaze into life on festival days. Their festivals almost invariably have significant advantages over the enormous ones in major cities: fewer people, less security, less restriction of movement and the opportunity to get closer and more involved.

LP's descriptions of the matsuri it does name are too cursory to be of use and are far too often misleading. LP rarely provides details that convince me that its researchers have actually been. Food and drink are treated with reverence and in great detail but none of LP's "travel experts" seems interested in matsuri. LP provides prices of beer and food but never tells us when you have to pay to see a festival or how hard it is to get a ticket. It tells us the opening and closing times of bars but doesn't tell us the start and finishing times of matsuri (Aomori Nebuta on P427 is a rare exception). Too often, LP simply resorts to the standard JNTO/tourist office line, vague generalities and an inconsequential word or two. The points that I would expect to be included in a travel guide are too frequently missed. Thus, following JNTO, Takayama spring matsuri is `one of Japan's greatest festivals' (P191). (The April event is now listed as one of the five `top events' in the country though the repeat in October isn't mentioned until P191.) Takayama does attract a great number of foreign tourists, but it's actually very mild and far less interesting and exciting than Hida-Furukawa hadaka matsuri which takes place a few miles away a couple of days later. The description of this latter festival (P195) still misses the main points and remains too reliant on the same lame joke carried forward from the guide's two previous editions at least. The continued use of the word `stage' remains misleading. The Rough Guide does a better job. Again following JNTO, the Nagoya matsuri is described as the city's "big annual event". In fact, it's mild and lacks atmosphere. I found the parade disappointing (half of it doesn't even cover the whole route). Nagoya's obscure but bizarre and fascinating Iwatsuka kinekosa matsuri is far more interesting, but is ignored. The Inazawa matsuri mentioned above should have been mentioned under Nagoya. I didn't recognise Nagasaki Kunchi matsuri from LP's confident but awful description (P588) - it's one of the most brilliantly choreographed and thrillingly performed matsuri that I've attended. It can also be a very frustrating event for foreign tourists. LP omits all the important points. LP makes quite a fuss now of the wonderful Saidai-ji Eyo (Okayama): the text, largely copied from the 11th edition, has been put into a box. It may look prettier but it's almost useless. "The fun kicks off at 10pm", LP again tells us. Don't believe it. I guarantee that if you arrive unprepared around 10pm, you will see absolutely nothing. LP advises the reader to "try to go on the second day" (p326) of Nada-no-Kenka even though day one is actually superb too. The Nikko Tosho-gu grand festival parade doesn't include 1,000 participants as claimed (P125). It's quite a reasonable spectacle but, in terms of Japan, I would describe it as a 15 minute walk down a hill, an extended break for lunch and a 15 minute walk back up again. LP is now so keen on Kurama-no-hi that it unnecessarily highlights it four times (P30, P248, P277, P281). None of the entries gets very far: there's no feeling for what it's like to actually be there. Kurama is a tiny mountain village and the festival is enormously popular. It can't cope with the numbers arriving for the one big night of the year. In 2011, a crowd management strategy was implemented to keep visitors moving at all times. If you did stop walking in the village, you immediately got a megaphone in your face. You had to keep walking along a roped-off set route. This took you into fields around the village where you were forced to stop and stand in mud under floodlights and pouring rain before being allowed to continue back into the village. I didn't expect my first experience of kettling to be at a matsuri. JNTO isn't going to tell you this sort of "insider information". LP never does either. (Not many Japanese festivals are bad: after the unexpected awfulness of Kurama-no-hi, I recovered my faith in Japan the next day at another festival.)

LP's failure to take proper account of matsuri leads to significant shortcomings in its coverage of geisha/geiko/maiko. Every tourist wants to see one. We're told the best ways to see them are either at dance performances in Kyoto or at an expensive, arranged dinner (the cost is high either Y18,000 on P293 or $900 on P732). Don't believe it. The Kyoto dances are unmissable, but there are other, if necessarily limited, ways to see them in public that avoid enormous expense or the evening zoo in Gion. LP tells us nothing about them. You can see onsen geisha sing, dance, play shamisen and shop in Lawson at the Dogo Onsen matsuri in Matsuyama. When I went, you could dance with a geisha and win a Dogo Onsen towel. In Kyoto, you can see them at a gorgeous hina matsuri ceremony (a nationwide event now eliminated completely from the guide as far as I can tell) and probably at other events too, such as Gion matsuri. If you really want to be served tea by a geiko or maiko, go to Baika Sai, Kitano Tenmangu, Kyoto on 25 February, an event unaccountably omitted by LP. It's a crush, but a dazzling crush, doesn't cost $900 and is incomparably better than LP's recommendation for Kitano Tenmangu: shopping for trinkets. For photos, LP recommends looking for tourists dressed up as maiko in the streets of Kyoto. "They look pretty much like the real thing", we're told. No, they don't: they look like tourists dressed up.

LP simply doesn't include the local or insider knowledge on matsuri that I would expect, that it is surely its job to provide, and that it explicitly prides itself on discovering. So what is the reader paying for? LP tells us nothing about matsuri that you can't get for free from JNTO, or with a lot of care and a sceptical approach, from the web. LP makes far too many mistakes. If you know nothing about Japan, you may take LP on trust and think that it knows what it is doing. On matsuri, it doesn't. You get the vocabulary for food, drink and onsen but not for matsuri (hadaka, mikoshi, kenka mikoshi, gyoretsu, danjiri ...). The topic is enormous but could be made manageable. Unlike with food and drink and onsen, LP makes no attempt to put information on matsuri across coherently and seriously. It wasn't short of space. Of course, it may not think it's worthwhile to do the work; in which case it should say so and omit the topic completely.

LP's passion for bars, on the other hand, is a constant in the book. Here we are in Minami (P315 - copied directly from P405 in the 11th edition): "This is the place for a wild night out in Osaka. You simply won't believe the number of bars, clubs and restaurants they've packed into the narrow streets and alleys...". And on and on LP goes. LP guides contain far too much advice on alcohol as though the modern tourist can't move without it. And researching bars, unlike matsuri, doesn't take much effort - just sitting-down and an awful lot of money. LP gets silly with alcohol and its effects. Here's LP's advice on Sapporo in winter (copied straight from the 11th edition): "if you dress appropriately (and maybe get a beer or two into your system), Sapporo is actually a very walkable city" (P466). Icy streets and alcohol? Delete, surely? Not one of Matsuyama's annual festivals is mentioned in the guide (my leaflet on the city lists 13), but we get five bars. These have been very seriously researched: only two of the five have been carried forward from the 11th edition. One is described as `secret' whatever that means, and from another, "passers-by can watch you get drunk". After you have got drunk, LP offers the solution for those caught short (if only for half the population): "it's quite common to see men urinating in public - the unspoken rule is that it's acceptable at night time if you happen to be drunk" (P750). This is bizarre. Why can't LP just encourage responsible, respectful tourism? LP must think highly of this advice: it's copied directly from the 11th edition (P822).

Shortcomings in the book aren't restricted to matsuri and beer. LP tells us that Haneda airport is "within reasonable taxi distance" (P22) of "downtown Tokyo" (whatever that means). Don't believe it. Japan is expensive (for Brits, the pound has more than halved in value against the yen since its peak), and the cost of taxis is prohibitive. We're told that the complete Kyushu shinkansen line has opened, but LP doesn't follow through the effects of this for JR pass holders. LP continues to say that Nozomi are the only trains that can't be used with the pass (P763). This isn't true now. Mizuho trains can't be taken with the pass either. This information, available since February 2011, should have been included. We're again categorically told that `many cities have tram lines' (P762). This isn't true. Japan isn't a country of trams. Very few Japanese cities have tram lines. LP's blanket advice on getting to Narita airport is just silly: "...give yourself plenty of time to get out to Narita. Airport officials recommend leaving four hours before your flight" (P115). Surely this depends on where you start from? The coverage of soccer on P176 has been slightly edited down from the content-free text that appeared in the two previous editions of the guide, and, of course, remains content-free. In fact, it's embarrassing. It's also not interesting to learn that baseball is "widely-publicised" (P176). It's bland. LP enthuses about sumo (P176) but ignores the fact that corruption in the sport brought about the cancellation, for the first time ever, of a tournament - in March 2011 in Osaka. It was a very significant event and needs saying - but LP prefers to avoid negative comments. The description of Sengan-En (a garden) in Kagoshima (P608) doesn't say that entry is overpriced, that it's cramped, largely given over to gift shops and a restaurant, and is noisy as it's located next to a main road and railway line. The admired "borrowed scenery" is as much clattering red trains as volcano. The description of the Takarazuka theatre in Tokyo (P107) is misleading. The implication is that it was founded in 1913 in Tokyo. It wasn't. It was founded in Takarazuka. The `home' theatre sadly isn't included in the book under Osaka (I found it in the Rough Guide and would rate it unmissable.) There isn't a lot of English in Japan, but LP now effectively tells us that Japanese is easier than ever for English-speaking tourists using its new transliteration system. "If you read our coloured pronunciation guides as if they were English, you'll be understood" (P767). Don't believe it. You need authentic sounds to imitate and practice before you go. Nothing replaces putting in the effort to learn some Japanese in advance - it's hard to exaggerate how useful it is. LP has introduced a new boxed feature in the book called `Local Knowledge'. In these boxes, the reader can learn such things as Kakuchi Rinko, an actress, would like to be Shibuya if she could play a Tokyo neighbourhood in a film (P68). Gosh. LP has reacted to the enormous amount of accommodation information and booking facilities now available on the web by changing absolutely nothing, apart from encouraging people to book through its own website (P740+). Most 'reasonably-priced' accommodation in Japan is now in business hotels, especially if you have a JR pass. I wonder why LP continues to list and offer a few words on a few increasingly random hotels for each place it visits at a time when so much is available on the web and when standardised business hotel chains are the norm. I wonder if it would be more useful now to characterise the chains well rather than individual hotels inadequately. The rooms across a Japanese chain rarely differ much but the chains themselves do, and many features are interesting enough to make this approach worthwhile. I don't think the Best Inn chain is mentioned at all in the book but it's fun to watch the metal barriers come down over reception at 10.00 am, by which time you have to be out of the place. Toyoko Inn appear a lot in the guide but descriptions vary a lot from place to place even though they all talk essentially about the same room and the same all-you-can-eat breakfast. You don't need Lonely Planet to 'review' random Toyoko Inn. You'll find much better up-to-date information on the chain's own website or in its directory. It's much less easy to find comparisons between chains, along with the benefits and disadvantages of staying at each. What are the differences between Toyoko Inn and Tokyu Inn and all the others? LP doesn't tell you. It could. LP's writing can be ok but it veers too often between the bland and glib and the overexcited. It clunks too often. The jokes aren't good. LP thinks it's worth telling people not to bring skis to Japan in July (P460). "Can you speak onsen?", we're asked. "International superstar Harajuku" (P68) isn't good. Shinkansen are "sort of like ... rocket ships" (P18). LP over-enthuses: "you can spend hours on the platforms watching the shinkansen zip past". This is empty gushing: it's hard to imagine a bigger waste of time. There are some good things in the LP book but it's too easy to find things that aren't. It's a question of personal taste in the end but the Rough Guide, to me, reads better and has given me information that I've actually used. I don't think the Rough Guide to Japan is great but it annoys me far less than Lonely Planet.

If you want cafes, bars, restaurants, museums, shopping, temples, gardens and onsen in the places LP covers and know little about Japan, you'll find the book, largely an edit of the previous edition, OK. If you want to learn about matsuri, and the spectacles they can provide which can't be seen anywhere else in the world, ignore the book completely. LP knows cultural festivals are significant: it has published a (very poor) book on world festivals and hasn't (yet) announced a guide to ultimate world hangovers. In the previous three editions of the book, LP recommended Bonen Kai, office party season, as one of Japan's major annual events for tourists. This has thankfully finally been deleted, but it's just tinkering at the edges at a very slow pace. LP's whole approach to matsuri needs to be completely rethought and researched properly if its presentation is to be informative, accurate, worth reading, helpful and worth paying for. I would argue that nothing in Japan, not temples not gardens not onsen not castles not shopping malls not markets not bars can match the beauty, thrills, elegance, ritual, choreography, excitement, pageantry, bizarreness, outrageousness, dignity, quietness, drunkenness, sobriety, violence, generosity, kindness or variety of its festivals. They, along with the JR Pass, are why I go back. Japan offers the extraordinary in its matsuri and LP misses it completely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant., 27 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
I struggled between this and my usual Rough Guides, but decided on this one as i read advise which recommended the most up to date/published last.
I have been impressed with this guide 2 Japan - and have found it very helpful in giving summaries of areas (when looking at where to book a hotel!) and also good maps so I can see how near various tourist attractions are.
Very helpful - would definatly recommend.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough, 3 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
Somehow I think that images are missing. The ones at the beginning are not enough. Japan is such a different world and the language so difficult to read that the best guides are those with images, so that you can better remember the places you've been and it's easier to identify the ones you want to see.
Also the culture sections could be more in depth.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Japan, 10 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
This book is a must to explore Japan. It will ever be in your pocket and you will aways be looking into it. I used it to look out for typical food and places to eat. Also the explanation of the cultural world of Japan is satisfying.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gift, 4 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
Great condition, completely new and no handling marks. Got this for a friend I was going to Japan with and it's full of tips on where to go and see and a map of all the places - great for trip planning!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars All what you need, 19 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
A complete guide of Japan. I really like the appearance and the organization of this new edition. Some extra photos (even in B&W) would make it perfect.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good product, 12 May 2013
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Great product, had all the information i needed in it. Would definitley recomend anyone to buy this product as its good value
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great, 4 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) (Paperback)
Great book for learning more about Japan. Has plenty of up to date information and is a good size to read on the plane!
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