Japan: The Rough Guide

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For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated in making up for lost time since the world came calling. Anyone who's eaten sushi or used a Sony Walkman feels they know something about this slinky archipelago of some 6800 volcanic islands tucked away off the far eastern coast of Asia, and yet, from the moment of arrival in this oddly familiar, quintessentially Oriental land it's ...
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Overview

INTRODUCTION
For a country that lived in self-imposed isolation until 150 years ago, Japan has not hesitated in making up for lost time since the world came calling. Anyone who's eaten sushi or used a Sony Walkman feels they know something about this slinky archipelago of some 6800 volcanic islands tucked away off the far eastern coast of Asia, and yet, from the moment of arrival in this oddly familiar, quintessentially Oriental land it's almost as if you've touched down on another planet.
Japan is a place of ancient gods and customs, but is also the cutting edge of cool modernity. High-speed trains whisk you from one end of the country to another with frightening punctuality. You can catch sight of a farmer tending his paddy field, then turn the corner and find yourself next to a neon-festooned electronic games parlour in the suburb of a sprawling metropolis. One day you could be picking through the fashions in the biggest department store on earth, the next relaxing in an outdoor hot-spring pool, watching cherry blossom or snow flakes fall, depending on the season.
Few other countries have, in the space of mere generations, experienced so much or made such an impact. Industrialized at lightning speed, Japan shed its feudal trappings to become the most powerful and outwardly aggressive country in Asia in a matter of decades. After defeat in World War II, it transformed itself from atom bomb victim to wonder economy, the envy of the globe. Currently facing up to recession and rising unemployment after years of conspicuous consumption, Japan still remains fabulously wealthy and intent on reinvention for the twenty-first century, when, together with South Korea, it will become the first Asian nation to host soccer's World Cup in 2002.
You don't want to wait until then to visit, though. Given the devalued yen and lower prices, Japan is now more attractive than ever to anyone keen to see just what makes this extraordinary country tick. It's never going to be a cheap place to travel, but there's no reason why it should be wildly expensive either. Some of the most atmospheric and traditionally Japanese places to stay and eat are often those that are the best value.
In the cities you'll first be struck by the mass of people. In this mountainous country, one and a half times the size of Britain, the vast majority of the 126 million population live on the crowded coastal plains of the main island of Honshu. The three other main islands, running north to south, are Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu, and all are linked to Honshu by bridges and tunnels that are part of one of Japan's modern wonders - its efficient transport network of trains and highways.
If you're after the latest buzz, the hippest fashions and technologies, and a worldwide selection of food, head for the exciting, overwhelming metropolises of Tokyo and Osaka. The cities are also the best places in which to sample Japan's traditional performance arts, such as Kabuki and No plays, to catch the titanic clash of sumo wrestlers, and track down the wealth of Japanese visual arts in the major museums.
Outside the cities, from the wide open spaces and deep volcanic lakes of Hokkaido, blanketed by snow every winter, to the balmy sub-tropical islands of Okinawa, there's a vast range of other holiday options, including hiking, skiing, scuba diving and surfing. You'll seldom have to travel far to catch sight of a lofty castle, ancient temple or shrine, or locals celebrating at a colourful street festival. The Japanese are inveterate travellers within their own country and there's hardly a town or village, no matter how small or plain, that doesn't boast some unique attraction.
It's not all perfect, though. Experts on focusing on detail (the exquisite wrapping of gifts and the tantalizing presentation of food are just two examples), the Japanese often miss the broader picture. Rampant development and sometimes appalling pollution is difficult to square with a country also renowned for cleanliness and appreciation of nature. Part of the problem is that natural cataclysms, such as earthquakes and typhoons, regularly hit Japan, so few people expect things to last for long anyway. There's also a blindness to the pernicious impact of mass tourism, with ranks of gift shops, ugly hotels and crowds often ruining potentially idyllic spots.
And yet, time and again, Japan redeems itself with unexpectedly beautiful landscapes, charmingly courteous people, and its tangible sense of history and cherished traditions. Most intriguing of all is the opaqueness at the heart of this mysterious "hidden" culture that stems from a blurring of traditional boundaries between East and West - Japan is neither wholly one nor the other.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This is an indispensable guide for getting the most out of your trip and for your money if you're planning a trip to Japan. With more than a thousand reviews of restaurants, accommodations, and the must-see sights, you'll be sure to get a real feel for the pulse of the country, whether you're trekking around Tokyo or strolling on a beautiful beach. As with all Rough Guides, the essays on history and culture are excellent.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781858283401
  • Publisher: Rough Guides, Limited
  • Publication date: 4/1/1999
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 864
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Not Sure What To See First?
Check out our authors' picks of must-see sights, local hangouts and unforgettable activities.

Himeji-jo Castle
The most impressive and best-preserved of Japan's feudal-era castles, Himeji-jo's dramatic, gabled keep is said to resemble a white-egret in flight.

Traditional Kabuki Theatre
Thanks to its colourful characters and dramatic plots, Kabuki is the most accessible of Japan's traditional performance arts. The best place to catch a performance is at Tokyo's Kabuki-za theatre.

Kenroku-en Garden
Kenroku-en is the largest and most interesting of Japan's many superb classical gardens. Its meandering paths, streams and islet-speckled lakes are best appreciated at dawn or dusk to avoid the crowds.

Tosho-gu Shrine
Set amid towering cryptomeria trees, Nikko's dazzling Tosho-gu shrine is a riot of gilded carvings and polychrome paintwork. It's the burial place of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Japan's most important historical figures.

Suskino Nightlife
In the northern city of Sapporo, the Suskino area ranks amongst Japan's liveliest entertainment districts. Its neon-seared streets are packed with bars, restaurants and nightclubs, pachinko parlours and sleazy "soaplands".

Pilgrimage to Dewa-sanzan
For more than one thousand years, pilgrims have been trekking up Dewa-sanzan. The most sacred of the mountain's three shrines consists of a yellow-ochre rock washed by a hot spring.

Tsumago Edo-Era Village
A staging post on the old Nakasendo highway between Tokyo and Kyoto, the beautifully preserved village of Tsumago provides a rare glimpse into Japan's feudal past.

Koya-san Buddhist Retreat
There's a surreal atmosphere to Koya-san, a Buddhist retreat perched among the clouds. Its mysterious, mossy cemetery is filled with jumbled memorials, while temples offer simple lodgings and excellent vegetarian cuisine.

Hiking in Daisetsu-zan National Park
Spectacular gorges, volcanic peaks, hot springs and dozens of trails make Hokkaido's Daisetsu-zan National Park a top spot for hiking. Summer's alpine flowers give way to vivid autumn colours, and skiing in winter.

Enryaku-ji Temple
The cavernous central hall of Enryaku-ji temple, deep in the cedar forests north of Kyoto, is absolutely compelling. Three altars float in a pungent haze of incense smoke lit by mellow lamp-light.

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Table of Contents

PART ONE BASICS
Getting there from Britain & Ireland
Getting there from the USA & Canada
Getting there from Australia & New Zealand
Land & sea routes to Japan
Visas & red tape
Insurance
Health
Travellers with disabilities
Information & maps
Costs, money & banks
Getting around
Accommodation
Eating & drinking
Communications & the media
Opening hours, public holidays & festivals
Social conventions & etiquette
Shopping & souvenirs
Sports & outdoor activities
Police, trouble & emergencies
Working & studying in Japan
Gay & lesbian Japan
Directory
PART TWO THE GUIDE
Chapter 1 Tokyo
Arrival
Information
Orientation
City transport
Accommodation
The Imperial Palace
East of the Imperial Palace
North of the Imperial Palace
South & west of the Imperial Palace
Asakusa
Ueno
West along the Yamanote line
Ikebukuro
Shinjuku
Meiji-jingp
Harajuku
Shibuya
Ebisu
Meguro & Shinagawa
Bayside Tokyo
Eating
Nightlife & entertainment
Shopping
Travel details
Chapter 2 Around Tokyo
Nikko
Mashiko
Narita
Fuji Five Lakes
Mount Fuji
Hakone
Izu Hanto
Atami
Shimoda
Matsuzaki
Dogashima
Shuzenji
Kamakura
Yokohama
Chapter 3 Northern Honshu
Aizu-Wakamatsu
Kitakata
Bandai Kogen
Yamagata
Zao Onsen
Yamadera
Sendai
Matsushima
Oshika Hanto
Hiraizumi
The Tono valley
Morioka
Aomori
Shimokita Hanto
Hirosaki
Towada-ko
Akita
Kakunodate
Dewa-sanzan
Niigata
Sado-ga-shima
Chapter 4 Hokkaido
Sapporo
Otaru
Niseko
Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park
Asahikawa
Daisetsu-zan National Park
Bibaushi
Furano
Wakkanai
Rishiri-to
Rebun-to
Abashiri
Shiretoko National Park
Akan National Park
Chapter 5 Central Honshu
Nagano
Karuizawa
Togakushi
Obuse
Nozawa Onsen
Hakuba
Shiga Kogen
Matsumoto
Hotaka
Kamikochi
Norikura Kogen Onsen
Narai
Magome
Tsumago
Takayama
Furukawa
Shirakawa-go & Gokayama
Takaoka & Toyama
Kanazawa
Noto Hanto
Fukui & Eihei-ji
Nagoya
Inuyama
Meiji Mura
Gifu
Chapter 6 Kansai
Osaka
Takarazuka
Kyoto
Hiei-zan
rhara
Arashiyama
Uji
Nara
Koya-san
Shima Hanto
Ise
Toba
Ago-wan
Kobe
Arima Onsen
Himeji
Chapter 7 Western Honshu
Okayama
Kurashiki
Takahashi
Kojima & Seto-rhashi
Imbe
Fukuyama
Tomo-no-Ura
Onomichi
Ikuchi-jima
rmi-shima
Hiroshima
Miya-jima
Iwakuni
Yamaguchi
Akiyoshi-dai
Shimonoseki
Hagi
Tsuwano
Matsue
Yakumotatsu Fudoki-no-Oka
Izumo Taisha
Tottori
Amanohashidate
Fuchu
Chapter 8 Shikoku
Takamatsu
Yashima
Shodo-shima
Kotohira
Tokushima
Awaji-shima
Hiwasa
Kannoura
Muroto Misaki
rboke Gorge
Kochi
Ashizuri Misaki
Tatsukushi
Sukumo
Uwajima
Uwa-machi
Uchiko
Matsuyama
Ishizuchi-san
Imabari
Chapter 9 Kyushu
Kita-Kypshp
Fukuoka
Dazaifu
Takeo
Huis ten Bosch
Nagasaki
Unzen
Shimabara
Kumamoto
Aso
Kurokawa Onsen
Takachiho
Beppu
Kagoshima
Ibusuki
Yakushima
Kirishima National Park
Miyazaki
Chapter 10 Okinawa
Okinawa-Honto
Naha
Southern Okinawa
Central Okinawa
Northern Okinawa
The Kerama islands
The southern islands
PART THREE CONTEXTS
History
Religion
Art
Film
Pop culture
Books
Language
Glossaries
Index
LIST OF MAPS
Japan
Chapter divisions
Tokyo
Colour insert: Tokyo subway
The Imperial Palace and around
East of the Imperial Palace
North of the Imperial Palace
Asakusa
Ueno
Ikebukuro
Shinjuku
Aoyama, Harajuku, Shibuya & Ebisu
Around Tokyo
Nikko
Fuji Five Lakes
Hakone
Izu Hanto
Kamakura
Yokohama
Northern Honshp
Aizu-Wakamatsu & Bandai Kogen
Sendai
Tono
Aomori
Towada-ko
Dewa-sanzan
Niigata
Sado-ga-shima
Hokkaid.
Sapporo
Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park
Daisetsu-zan National Park
Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park
Central Honsh
Nagano
Matsumoto
Takayama
Ogimachi
Kanazawa
Nagoya
Kansai
rsaka
rsaka Rail Line
rsaka: Kita
rsaka: Minami
Kyoto
Central Kyoto
Around Kyoto station
East Kyoto
Northwest Kyoto
Around Kyoto
Around Nara
Nara
Koya-san
Shima Hanto
Kobe
Himeji
Western Honsh
Okayama
Kurashiki
Onomichi
Hiroshima
Miya-jima
Yamaguchi
Shimonoseki
Hagi
Tsuwano
Matsue
Shikoku
Takamatsu
Kotohira
Tokushima
Kochi
Uwajima
Matsuyama
Dogo
Kypshp
Fukuoka
Dazaifu
Nagasaki
Central Nagasaki
Kumamoto
The Aso Caldera
Beppu
Kagoshima
Ibuski
Yakushima Island
Kirishima National Park
Miyazaki
Okinawa
Okinawa Island
Naha
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