The Rough Guide to Japan
Reviewer: Alexander Jacoby from Yokohama, Japan
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.
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