Frommer's Japan

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Frommer's Japan is completely updated, and features gorgeous color photos of the sights and experiences that await you.

Our author has written about Japan for years, so she's able to provide valuable insights and advice. She'll steer you away from the touristy and the inauthentic and show you the real heart of the Land of the Rising Sun.

  • Insider advice on the best travel experiences, like climbing Mount Fuji, exploring Kyoto's Gion District, ...
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Frommer's Japan is completely updated, and features gorgeous color photos of the sights and experiences that await you.

Our author has written about Japan for years, so she's able to provide valuable insights and advice. She'll steer you away from the touristy and the inauthentic and show you the real heart of the Land of the Rising Sun.

  • Insider advice on the best travel experiences, like climbing Mount Fuji, exploring Kyoto's Gion District, making a pilgrimage to Sensoji Temple, or riding the Skinkansen Bullet Train, so you're sure to have a fantastic trip. Plus tips for navigating the country's lovely but less-traveled corners, like skiing in Honshu and Hokkaido.
  • Where to find the best ryokan to spend a night, the most beautiful kaiseki meal, the best shopping in Tokyo, or the loveliest Zen rock garden.
  • Insightful commentary on the culture of old and new Japan to help you peel the onion of the unique synthesis of East and West that meets in the country.
  • Opinionated reviews. No bland descriptions and lukewarm recommendations. Our expert writers are passionate about their destinations--they tell it like it is in an engaging and helpful way.
  • Exact prices listed for every establishment and activity--no other guides offer such detailed, candid reviews of hotels and restaurants. We include the very best, but also emphasize moderately priced choices for real people.
  • User-friendly features including star ratings and special icons to point readers to great finds, excellent values, insider tips, best bets for kids, special moments, and overrated experiences.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118252628
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/28/2012
  • Series: Frommer's Complete Series
  • Edition number: 11
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Beth Reiber worked for several years in Tokyo as an editor of the Far East Traveler. Now a freelance travel writer residing in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband and two sons, she is the author of several Frommer's guides including Frommer's Japan and Frommer's Hong Kong. She is a contributor to Frommer's Europe from $70 a Day, Frommer's USA, and Frommer's Southeast Asia.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps vii
What's New in Japan 1
1 The Best of Japan 4
1 The Best Travel Experiences 5
2 The Best Temples & Shrines 6
3 The Best Gardens 8
4 The Best Castles, Palaces & Villas 9
5 The Best Museums 10
6 The Best Small Towns & Villages 11
7 The Best National Parks 12
8 The Best of Old Japan 13
9 The Best of Modern Japan 15
10 The Best Spas & Public Baths 16
11 The Best Outdoor Adventures 17
12 The Best Traditional Ryokan 18
13 The Best Western-Style Hotels 18
14 The Best Affordable Japanese-Style Places to Stay 19
15 The Best Culinary Experiences 21
16 The Best Destinations for Serious Shoppers 21
2 Planning Your Trip to Japan 23
1 The Regions in Brief 24
2 Visitor Information 27
3 Entry Requirements & Customs 29
4 Money 30
The Japanese Yen 31
5 When to Go 32
Calendar of Events 35
6 Health & Safety 41
7 Specialized Travel Resources 42
8 The 21st-Century Traveler 44
9 Getting There 45
10 Escorted Tours & Package Tours 48
11 Getting Around Japan 50
12 Tips on Accommodations 59
Tips for Saving on Your Hotel Room 64
13 Tips on Dining, Japanese Style 69
14 Packing Tips 78
15 Suggested Itineraries for Seeing Japan 79
For First-Timers 80
Regional Tours 82
16 Recommended Books 86
Fast Facts: Japan 89
3 Settling into Tokyo 98
1 Orientation 99
Tokyo's Neighborhoods in Brief 107
2 Getting Around 110
Fast Facts: Tokyo 113
3 Where to Stay 118
Family-Friendly Hotels 123
Narita Stopover 136
4 Where to Dine 141
Family-Friendly Restaurants 148
Dining Under the Stars at Hanezawa Garden 169
4 Exploring Tokyo 172
Suggested Itineraries for Seeing the City 173
1 The Top Attractions 174
Frommer's Favorite Tokyo Experiences 178
2 Five Unforgettable Ways to Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture 180
3 Parks & Gardens 182
4 More Museums 184
5 Spectacular City Views 188
6 City Strolls 189
Searching for Old Edo: A Walking Tour of Asakusa 189
In the Heart of Trendy Tokyo: A Stroll Through Harajuku & Aoyama 194
7 Especially for Kids 197
8 Spectator Sports 199
9 Shopping 199
For It's Ichi, Ni, San Strikes You're Out 200
10 Tokyo After Dark 211
5 Side Trips from Tokyo 224
1 Kamakura, Ancient Capital 224
2 Shogun Country: Nikko 231
3 Yokohama, City of the 21st Century 238
4 Climbing Japan's Most Famous Mountain: Mount Fuji 244
5 Hakone: By Mountain Tram, Cable Car, Ropeway & Boat 246
6 Izu Peninsula, Tokyo's Playground 254
6 The Japan Alps 260
1 Matsumoto, Gateway to the Japan Alps 260
2 Along the Nakasendo Highway: Tsumago & Magome 268
3 Takayama, Little Kyoto of the Mountains 270
4 Rural Shirakawago & Ogimachi 279
7 Kyoto & Nara 284
Frommer's Favorite Kyoto Experiences 285
1 Orientation 286
Kyoto's Neighborhoods in Brief 288
2 Getting Around 289
Fast Facts: Kyoto 290
3 Where to Stay in Kyoto 292
4 Where to Dine in Kyoto 306
5 Exploring the City 319
Suggested Itineraries 320
Walking Tour 1 A Stroll Through Higashiyama-ku 327
Walking Tour 2 The Philosopher's Stroll 332
6 Imperial Villas & Temples Within Easy Reach of Kyoto 336
A Summer Spectacle: Cormorant Fishing 337
7 Shopping Kyoto 339
8 Kyoto After Dark 342
9 A Side Trip to Nara 344
8 The Rest of Western Honshu 352
1 Nagoya 352
P-Ping! Pachinko Parlors 359
2 Ise-Shima National Park 365
3 More of Old Japan: Kanazawa 375
4 Osaka 386
5 Kobe 409
6 The Temples of Mount Koya 423
7 Himeji, a Castle Town 426
8 Okayama: Gateway to Shikoku 431
Countryside Delights: Okayama Prefecture's International Villas 436
9 Kurashiki, Market Town of Many Charms 438
10 Off the Beaten Path: Matsue 445
11 Hiroshima 454
12 Miyajima, Scenic Island in the Seto Sea 467
9 Shikoku 472
1 Takamatsu 472
2 Matsuyama Castle & Dogo Spa 481
10 Kyushu 491
1 Fukuoka 491
Take Me Out to the Ballgame 496
2 Beppu, King of the Hot-Spring Spas 501
3 Off the Beaten Path: Miyazaki 507
4 Kagoshima 515
5 Southern Kyushu's Top Spa: Ibusuki 526
6 Kumamoto 530
7 Nagasaki 539
8 Unzen Spa & Its Hells 553
11 Northeastern Honshu--Tohoku 558
1 The Pine-Clad Islands of Matsushima 559
2 Kakunodate, Town of Samurai Homes 566
3 Towada-Hachimantai National Park: For the Active Traveler 569
12 Northern Japan--Hokkaido 577
1 Hokkaido Essentials 577
2 Hakodate, Southern Gateway to Hokkaido 579
3 Sapporo 583
4 Noboribetsu Spa & Shikotsu-Toya National Park 594
Another Island, Another People: The Ainu of Hokkaido 598
5 Sounkyo Spa & Daisetsuzan National Park 601
6 Akanko Spa & Akan National Park 605
Appendix A Japan in Depth 612
1 History 101 612
Here and Zazen: Buddhism in Japan 614
2 Japan Today 619
The Magical World of Vending Machines 621
3 Minding Your Ps & Qs 621
The Home-Visit System 623
4 Dealing with the Language Barrier 627
5 Cultural Snapshots: Japanese Arts in a Nutshell 629
Sumo 631
Appendix B A Glossary of Useful Japanese Terms 633
Appendix C A Japanese-Character Index of Establishment Names 640
Index 649
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First Chapter

Frommer's Japan

By Beth Reiber Janie Spencer

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-4323-7

Chapter One

The Best of Japan

Hardly a day goes by that you don't hear something about Japan, whether the subject is trade, travel, scandal, natural disaster, cuisine, the arts, or the nation's worst economic recession since World War II. Yet Japan remains something of an enigma to people in the Western world. What best describes this Asian nation? Is it the giant producer of cars, computers, and a whole array of sleek electronic goods that compete favorably with the best in the West? Or is it still the land of the geisha and bonsai, the punctilious tea ceremony, and the delicate art of flower arrangement? Has it become, in its outlook and popular culture, a country more Western than Asian? Or has it retained its unique ancient traditions while forging a central place in the modern industrialized world?

In fact, Japan is an intricate blend of East and West. Its cities may look Westernized-often disappointingly so-but beyond first impressions there's very little about this Asian nation that could lull you into thinking you're in the West. Yet Japan also differs greatly from its Asian neighbors. Although it borrowed much from China in its early development, including Buddhism and its writing system, the island nation remained steadfastly isolated from the rest of the world throughout much of its history, usually deliberately so. Until World War II, it had never been successfully invaded; and formore than 200 years, while the West was stirring with the awakenings of democracy and industrialism, Japan completely closed its doors to the outside world and remained a tightly structured feudalistic society with almost no outside influence.

It's been just a little more than 136 years since the Japanese opened their doors, embracing Western products wholeheartedly, yet at the same time altering them and making them unquestionably their own. Thus, that modern highrise may look Western, but it may contain a rustic-looking restaurant with open charcoal grills, corporate offices, a pachinko parlor, a high-tech bar with views of Mount Fuji, a McDonald's, an acupuncture clinic, a computer showroom, and a rooftop shrine. Your pizza may come with octopus, beer gardens are likely to be fitted with Astroturf, and "parsley" refers to unmarried women older than 25 (because parsley is what's left on a plate). City police patrol on bicycles, garbage collectors attack their job with the vigor of a well-trained army, and white-gloved elevator operators, working in some of the world's swankiest department stores, bow and thank you as you exit.

Because of this unique synthesis of East and West into a culture that is distinctly Japanese, Japan is not easy for Westerners to comprehend. Discovering it is like peeling an onion-you uncover one layer only to discover more layers underneath. Thus, no matter how long you stay in Japan, you never stop learning something new about it-and to me that constant discovery is one of the most fascinating aspects of being here.

1 The Best Travel Experiences

Long ago, the Japanese ranked the "three best" of almost every natural wonder and attraction in their country: the three best gardens, the three best scenic spots, the three best waterfalls, even the three best bridges. But choosing the "best" of anything is inherently subjective, and decades-even centuries-have passed since some of the original "three best" were so designated. Still, lists can be useful for establishing priorities. To help you get the most out of your stay, I've compiled this list of what I consider the best Japan has to offer based on our many combined years of traveling through the country. From the weird to the wonderful, the profound to the profane, the obvious to the obscure, these recommendations should fire your imagination and launch you toward discoveries of your own.

Making a Pilgrimage to a Temple or Shrine: From mountaintop shrines to neighborhood temples, Japan's religious structures rank among the nation's most popular attractions. Usually devoted to a particular deity, they're visited for specific reasons: Shopkeepers call on Fushimi-Inari Shrine outside Kyoto, dedicated to the goddess of rice and therefore prosperity, while couples wishing for a happy marriage head to Kyoto's Jishu Shrine, a shrine to the deity of love. Shrines and temples are also the sites for most of Japan's major festivals. See chapter 2, the regional chapters, and "The Best Temples & Shrines" section, below, for more on Japan's temples and shrines.

Taking a Communal Hot-Spring Bath: No other people on earth bathe as enthusiastically, as frequently, and for such duration as the Japanese. Their many hot-spring resorts-thought to cure all sorts of ailments as well as simply make you feel good-range from hangarlike affairs to outdoor baths with views of the countryside. No matter what the setup, you'll soon warm to the ritual of soaping up, rinsing off, and then soaking in near-scalding waters. See "The Best Spas & Public Baths," later in this chapter, for specific recommendations.

Participating in a Festival: With Shintoism and Buddhism as its major religions, and temples and shrines virtually everywhere, Japan has festivals literally every weekend. These celebrations, which range from huge processions of wheeled floats to those featuring horseback archery and ladder-top acrobatics, can be lots of fun; you may want to plan your trip around one. See the "Calendar of Events," in chapter 2 for a list of some of the most popular Japanese festivals.

Dining on Japanese Food: There's more to Japanese cuisine than sushi, and part of what makes travel here so fascinating is the variety of national and regional dishes. Every prefecture, it seems, has its own style of noodles, its special vegetables, and its delicacies. If money is no object, order kaiseki, a complete meal of visual and culinary finesse. See the "Tips on Dining, Japanese Style" section of chapter 2, the "Where to Dine" sections in the regional chapters, and "The Best Culinary Experiences," later in this chapter, for more on Japanese food.

Viewing the Cherry Blossoms: Nothing symbolizes the coming of spring so vividly to the Japanese as the appearance of the cherry blossoms-and nothing so amazes visitors as the way the Japanese gather under the blossoms to celebrate the season with food, 1 The Best Travel Experiences drink, dance, and karaoke. See the "Calendar of Events," in chapter 2 for cherry blossom details.

Riding the Shinkansen Bullet Train: Asia's fastest train whips you across the countryside at more than 290km (180 miles) an hour as you relax, see the country's rural countryside, and dine on boxed meals filled with local specialties of the area through which you're speeding. See "Getting Around Japan," in chapter 2 for more.

Staying in a Ryokan: Japan's legendary service reigns supreme in the ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Staying in a ryokan is the height of both luxury and simplicity: You'll bathe in a Japanese tub, dine like a king in your own room, sleep on a futon, awaken to lovely views (usually a Japanese garden) past the shoji screens, and breakfast in your room to start the day. See "Tips on Accommodations," in chapter 2 and the "Where to Stay" sections in the regional chapters for more on ryokan.

Shopping in a Department Store: Japan's department stores are among the best in the world, offering everything from food to designer clothing to electronics to kimono and traditional crafts. Service also is among the best in the world: If you arrive when the store opens, staff will be lined up at the front door to bow as you enter. See the "Shopping" sections throughout this book.

Attending a Kabuki Play: Based on universal themes and designed to appeal to the masses, Kabuki plays are extravaganzas of theatrical displays, costumes, and scenes-but mostly they're just plain fun. See "Cultural Snapshots: Japanese Arts in a Nutshell," in appendix A and the Kabuki section of "Tokyo After Dark," in chapter 4. Strolling Through Tokyo's Nightlife District: Every major city in Japan has its own nightlife district, but probably none is more famous, more wicked, or more varied than Tokyo's Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, which offers everything from hole-in-the-wall bars to strip joints, discos, and gay clubs. See "Tokyo After Dark," in chapter 4.

Seeing Mount Fuji: It may not seem like much of an accomplishment to see Japan's most famous and tallest mountain, visible from 161km (100 miles) away. But the truth is: It's hardly ever visible except during the winter months and rare occasions when the air is clear. Catching your first glimpse of the giant peak is truly breathtaking and something you'll never forget, whether you see it from aboard the Shinkansen, from a Tokyo skyscraper, or from a nearby national park. If you want to climb it, be prepared for a group experience-600,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year. See "Climbing Japan's Most Famous Mountain: Mount Fuji," in chapter 5 for more information.

Spending a Few Days in Kyoto: If you see only one city in Japan, Kyoto should be it. Japan's capital from 794 to 1868, Kyoto is one of Japan's finest ancient cities, boasting some of the country's best temples, Japanese-style inns, traditional restaurants, shops, and gardens. See chapter 7 for extensive information on the city.

2 The Best Temples & Shrines

Sensoji Temple (Tokyo): The capital's oldest temple is also its liveliest. Throngs of visitors and stalls selling both traditional and kitschy items lend it a festival-like atmosphere. This is the most important temple to see in Tokyo. See p. 175.

Meiji Jingu Shrine (Tokyo): Tokyo's most venerable and refined Shinto shrine honors the Emperor Meiji and his empress with simple yet dignified architecture surrounded by a dense forest. This is a great refuge in the heart of the city. See p. 175.

Kotokuin Temple (Kamakura): This temple is home to the Great Buddha, Japan's second-largest bronze image, which was cast in the 13th century and sits outdoors against a magnificent wooded backdrop. The Buddha's face has a wonderful expression of contentment, serenity, and compassion. See p. 228.

Hase Kannon Temple (Kamakura): Although this temple is famous for its 9m (30-ft.) tall Kannon of Mercy, the largest wooden image in Japan, it's most memorable for its thousands of small statues of Jizo, the guardian deity of children, donated by parents of miscarried, stillborn, or aborted children. It's a rather haunting vision. See p. 229.

Toshogu Shrine (Nikko): Dedicated to Japan's most powerful shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, this shrine is the nation's most elaborate and opulent, made with 2.4 million sheets of gold leaf. It's set in a forest of cedar. See p. 234.

Kiyomizu Temple (Kyoto): One of Japan's best-known temples with a structure imitated by lesser temples around the country, Kiyomizu commands an exalted spot on a steep hill with a sweeping view over Kyoto. The pathway leading to the shrine is lined with pottery and souvenir shops, and the temple grounds have open-air pavilions where you can drink beer or eat noodles. Don't neglect the smaller Jishu Shrine on its grounds-it's dedicated to the god of love. See p. 324.

Sanjusangendo Hall (Kyoto): Japan's longest wooden building contains the spectacular sight of more than 1,000 life-size wood-carved statues, row upon row of the thousand-handed Kannon of Mercy. See p. 326.

Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion; Kyoto): Constructed in the 14th century as a shogun's retirement villa, this three-story pavilion shimmers in gold leaf and is topped with a bronze phoenix; it's a beautiful sight when the sun shines and the sky's blue. See p. 326.

Todaiji Temple (Nara): Japan's largest bronze Buddha sits in the largest wooden structure in the world, making it the top attraction in this former capital. While not as impressive as the Great Buddha's dramatic outdoor stage in Kamakura (see above), the sheer size of Todaiji Temple and its Buddha make this a sight not to be missed if you're in the Kansai area. See p. 348.

Horyuji Temple (Nara): Despite the fact that Todaiji Temple with its Great Buddha (see above) gets all the glory, true seekers of Buddhist art and history head to the sacred grounds of Horyuji Temple with its treasures and ancient buildings. See p. 346.

Ise Grand Shrines (Ise): Although there's not much to see, these shrines are the most venerated Shinto shrines in all of Japan, and pilgrims have been flocking here for centuries. Amazingly, the Inner Shrine, which contains the Sacred Mirror, is razed and reconstructed on a new site every 20 years according to strict rules governing purification in the Shinto religion. Follow the age-old route of former pilgrims after you visit the shrines, and stop for a meal in the nearby Okage Yokocho District. See p. 367.

Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima): The huge red torii (the traditional entry gate of a shrine) standing in the waters of the Seto Inland Sea is one of the most photographed landmarks in Japan and signals the approach to this shrine. Built over the tidal flats on a gem of an island called Miyajima, it's considered one of Japan's most scenic spots. At night, the shrine is illuminated. See p. 468.


Excerpted from Frommer's Japan by Beth Reiber Janie Spencer Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Content good, formatting for Nook and Nook Android App is HORRENDOUS

    I've always liked the Frommer books, so I have no beef with that. However, the formatting for the Nook and Nook App for Android and PC is simply horrendous and makes the book almost worthless.

    However, reading it using Nook for the Web works--the formatting looks pretty much like what the actual book looks like. This isn't the first time I've had a book with horrible formatting on the Nook, and I'm beginning to wonder if formatting on the Kindle is handled better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    I've been to Japan many times, and bought this guide to get an update from the 1986 travel guide I've been using! Tokyo, Osaka, etc etc., very good, usual recommendations. But I was flabbergasted when I could find no mention of Kamikochi, probably one of the most famous resort towns in the middle of the Japanese Alps. Frommer's managed to find Matsumoto, Takayama, and a few others, but totally ignored Kamikochi and other places around the fantastic Chubu Sanku National Park---must be they couldn't get a room. Find another travel guide if you want something else besides the usual.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Ninja Pretty

    Hey wats happend so far

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted December 25, 2011

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