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on 9 December 1999
In the past I have found it both a bonus and a sadness that the excellent Rough Guide books do not seem to be well known outside of Britain. It is sad because their books are generally excellent - not only are there guides to destinations but a superb Rough Guide to World Music,guides and CDs on different world music types, a guide to world cinema, to the millennium, etc- but it is a bonus also because when you are travelling you don`t find yourself drawn to the same places as all those other Lonely Planet and Fodors users.
This is not simply because of their users rarity, but because the coverage seems to be so much more in depth. I have just moved to Japan and in my first 6 months here I have been as much a tourist as a resident and a travel guide has been useful. What I do now have though is a local knowledge of my part of Japan (Southern Kyushu) that goes beyond a travel guide so I think I have a good perspective on guides` coverage of this part of Japan.
I have to say that Lonely Planet is a little too trendy for its own good. It seems its coverage of the big cities is pretty much spot on, but get beyond the suburbs and it starts to become scanty. Rough Guide on the other hand maybe fails a little in the cities, but comes up trumps in the `real` areas of Japan.
I live in one of the more remote, traditional and frankly bizarre areas in Japan (Kagoshima) but LP has hardly any coverage of this area. A good example of Rough Guide`s superiority is its entry on an Island near me called Yakushima. It has been declared a world heritage site because of the `Land That Time Forgot` style rain forests and cedar trees several thousands of years old. LP has only a single paragraph while RG stretches to a few pages with travel and accomodation hints.
I can not comment on RGs coverage of the rest of Japan, but I know that for Kyushu it is the best guide. I really appreciate RGs straight forward, unpretencious and holistic style (buy the RG to Japanese Music CD- weird and wonderful); I recommend you give it a try.
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on 16 March 2012
I went to Japan for the first time so I needed a good guide. I had actually both this and the Lonely Planet guide, and they are both good, but this is better. More manysided and better in details. The problem with guides is of course that you wish that they would tell about the really good places only for a select few. In my case, I was there in February, so I did not have a lot of company. On the other hand, some of the best experiences (cherry blossoms, mountain walks) were not there to be done. I only bought the guides as Kindle editions, because it is much lighter than books, but in travel guides the restrictions of a kindle edition are very obvious: maps are useless, it is more difficult to find what you are looking for, you don't get an overall picture. The when you get directly google maps, hotel lists and timetables from your e-guide, then it will be different! And that will happen in a very near future.
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on 29 May 2012
I got this as an offline resource for when traveling around Japan for two weeks, and especially wanted it for its maps, food and store recommendations, and history sections.
The way the sections are organized can be confusing, and there was a lot of time wasted flipping through sections in order to find the right information for the right area. I used tabs to help, and even then it proved difficult to find things quickly. The index isn't much help.
Many of the "getting there" and local travel information sections are vague and unclear - wikitravel online does a far better job. Using them both in conjunction was definitely necessary. Local area maps were confusing, and, especially in places like Tokyo, where addresses are done differently than in the West, and the maps are near useless at times. If you do get this book, you must get local area maps as well from tourist information, because the book itself is not useful for navigation, and is only good for general city layout.
The restaurant recommendations were often out of date, or surprisingly pricy.
Is this a perfect guidebook? Definitely not. It does the job, and is best a supplement for other travel resources. Its not ideal for budget travelers, or for people who travel light. But, it does a decent basic job, and is best used as a general inspiration guide to places to visit.
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on 11 March 2008
This is the best of the major guidebooks on Japan. Much more information than Lonely Planet and the DK Guide, and better all round, too, than Fodor's. What's here is first class, solid, useful, insightful stuff. A new editon has since been published.
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on 4 February 2002
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best and most authoritative guide available on Japan. TRG won the Travel Guidebook of the Year Award, and for good reason. Like all TRGs, the Japan edition is broken down into several logical and intuitive sections, beginning with 'the basics' (getting there, climate data, health, insurance, sports, etc.), going through all the various regions of Japan and finishing with a section called 'contexts', which deals with history, religion, arts, environmental issues, language and so forth. Like the majority of guidebooks, there is a large emphasis on the capital, with a good chunk of the book devoted completely to Tokyo, but unlike other capitals, the megapolis of c.23m people probably deserves the treatment and still not everything is covered. Unlike its poorer cousin, the Lonely Planet series, the Rough Guide doesn't go in for scorning attractions or areas, but the text is laced with good advice and enough value judgements to help you spend your time wisely. The authors have done a splendid job of rooting out some real gems and are not obnoxiously opinionated, something which always grates when one is reduced to referring to Lonely Planets. TRG has surveys of accommodation, restaurants and entertainments for each area; it covers the whole price range but in doing so can become scanty if you are always, for example, on a low budget. The text is dense and stuffed with maps which come in very handy indeed. My only criticism of TRG is that, like all products that have to be commercially viable, it doesn't really cater to minorities, e.g. gay and lesbian travellers/residents. This is - to an extent - understandable, but no excuse not to provide better links to alternative sources of information. Otherwise, a thoroughly-researched and comprehensively accurate tome (in 4 months I have found only 4 inaccuracies in it, two of them numerical and of no significance, one a outdated phone number and one an inexistant website). If you are visiting Japan for any significant length of time, buy this book.
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Having travelled a number of countries, relying almost completely on the Rough Guide series, I found the Rough Guide to Japan somewhat lacking. This is not to say that the Guide is not an important companion in Japan - we also brought along the Lonely Planet edition, and (as usual) the Rough Guide was the book we referred to most. My comments are critical only because the Rough Guide series is by far the best travel book anyone of any walk of life can use in an unfamiliar country, and I feel the Japan edition does not conform to their usual high standards.
Perhaps one of the great joys of being in Japan is sampling the wealth of cuilinary delights on offer. But the Guide seems to list (especially in Tokyo) many Western-based food outlets. Yet the Guide also provides the statistic of 60,000 restaurants existing in Tokyo, compared to a tenth of that in New York, and less in London. Yet very few Japanese Restaurants are listed. Of course, there are language difficulties for guijin (foreigners) ordering from a Japanese restaurant, but it is not an impossible prospect (by the way, if you get a chance to try Horse-meat sashimi (I`m serious!), put back your reservations and try it - very delicious).
The Guide`s summarised coverage of a country`s history is usually a concise and precise affair, and this book is no exception. But I felt where some of the important historical sights were mentioned inside the book, that the authors seemed to skip over some of the details. Now obviously Japan has such a huge cultural diversity that it would be impractical to list the finer details of every historical site. and I also believe that there is something to be said for discovering facts for yourself, but I write this synopsis based on the other Rough Guides I have used, and the coverage of, say Spain, shows a lot more depth.
What I have no qualms in stating is that the index is apalling. No use whatsoever.
Rough Guide have published a Rough Guide to Tokyo (which I have not purchased for this trip), and I feel that they should perhaps split the whole of Japan into separate books to allow more coverage.
Rough Guide will always be my book of choice for travel, and I would recommend the series to anyone. I still recommend the Rough Guide to Japan, (it still knocks socks of Lonely Plant) but I advise anyone going to Japan to use several sources of information to ensure that you enjoy this wonderful country to its fullest.
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on 20 December 2011
We have about 20 Rough Guides in our collection and will always consider them first when exploring other countries.

The Rough Guide to Japan served us very well on our 2 week holiday in this wonderful country. Like all Rough Guides, the author injected their own personal touch and the listings for restaurants and accommodation proved as helpful and accurate as ever.

With the exception of one small fishing village that didn't live up to the cuteness the author raved on about, everything we did and visited as a result of the guide made our holiday one of the most memorable we have had. I would recommend the guide whole-heartedly to anyone planning a holiday there.
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on 21 August 2011
In my opinion, The rough guide to Japan 2011 gives a great snapshot of the whole of Japan. If you intend on travelling around Japan then this book is a great source to start with. It is well laid out and enthusiastically written. It contains enough information to navigate around Japan with ease. However if you are planning on spending more than a week or so in any one region I would strongly recommend buying another guide book specific to that region or city.

On a side note this book was published before the Earthquake and Tsunami in the north east so it still has information about that region which is now sadly destroyed. I would advise anyone intending on travelling to the north east to thoroughly research the condition of the place they intend to visit before making their trip as vast regions have been destroyed. However Japan would benefit greatly from tourist income and the rest of Japan is an amazing and safe place to visit.
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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2014
Published in February 2011, the Rough Guide to Japan is a comprehensive guidebook offering tourist tips and suggestions (including basic Japanese phrases and etiquette) and sections looking at Japan’s history and culture. I enjoyed the history and culture sections, but the book runs to over 800 pages, making me wonder if they could be missed.

The guide divides Japan into 11 areas – Tokyo, ‘Around Tokyo’, Northern Honshu, Hokkaido, Central Honshu, Kyoto & Nara, Kansai, Western Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. There’s a good section on travel around Japan, including its famous bullet train system and each of the area sections give a wide choice of activities, including attractions and walks. However, while there’s a lot of suggestions on things to do, the maps and directions of the cities outside Tokyo (particularly Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima) were terrible to use – too small and not containing enough detail to help you practically navigate your way to an attraction. This was particularly true of Osaka, where I spent an afternoon trying to follow the instructions to a museum, only to find that they cut out about half way through, leaving me stranded and forced to ask passers by for directions. This was repeated with a number of attractions located outside the cities, with the Rough Guide neglecting to give transport directions, thus making them inaccessible unless you speak Japanese and can get a taxi.

Additionally, although the Guide tells you that where a public holiday falls on a Sunday, then the holiday will also apply the following Monday, it fails to mention that for many museums (particularly in Tokyo) if a public holiday falls on a Monday, then the museum will open on the Monday but close the following Tuesday. This cost me a certain amount of inconvenience and frustration when I ran up against it during my stay and it’s exactly the kind of thing a tourist should be warned about.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a general introduction to Japan, this is a good starting point but it’s not a book to take with you – it’s too heavy and the maps aren’t good enough. I’d recommend using it to do your research and then preload specific sites and maps onto a phone or tablet so that you can get around more effectively. Note that Rough Guides issued a new version in September 2014, which I’d suggest checking out instead of this.
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on 9 September 2003
As it's names suggests, this book is a good comprehensive and readable rough guide to Japan. However, if you want a more in-depth source of info you'd be better off contacting the Japanese Tourist Office and asking them to send you pamphlets and maps. There are places which are not covered by this book and many rural places are mentioned only in passing. There are sections where the authors have clearly visited and remembered enough to write down directional guides, but on the whole, I'd say that the book provides an overview of what's on offer. Overall, I'd recommend it to someone who has never visited Japan, but to get the most out of your holiday, I'd use this as starter reference only. My only gripe is that there aren't enough pictures and you don't get a feel for the places.
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