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Gateway to Japan [Paperback]

Kinoshita & Palevsky
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 1998 Kodansha Guide
Guide to the Guide [from the book]

When friends want to know where to go in Japan, I always ask, "What are you interested in?" One friend spent every day at the Kabuki theater in Tokyo. Another ventured north to savor the culinary traditions of Tohoku. We know people who adore Tokyo, exulting in the energy of the world's most futuristic megapolis. Others loath it and flee to tranquil Kyoto, the former imperial city that epitomizes the refinement of traditional culture. Still others visit both cities and marvel at the extremes represented by these opposing poles of the Japanese experience. The diversity of cultural and geographic offerings can be intimidating. The two sections of this hook, History and Culture and Japan by Region, are designed to make them more manageable. History and Culture focuses on specific topics and recommends where to go. Japan by Region gives the practical information you need to make the trip.

History and Culture

"A Brief History" introduces the major historical periods and includes a list of the most important figures in Japanese history and culture; their names appear in uppercase letters throughout the book. The chapters that follow provide both an overview and a practical reference on various subjects. For example, "Cuisine" contains bilingual "menus" from which you can order food in restaurants. Most of the chapters conclude with a list of recommendations. Any place that is mentioned in both the main text and the list appears in uppercase.

Japan by Region

The ten regional chapters appear in geographic order, from north to south (see map on p. vi). The largest of Japan's four main islands, Honshu, and the smallest, Shikoku, together make up seven chapters. The remaining three chapters are devoted to Hokkaido, Kyushu, and the Okinawan archipelago. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction and lists the best attractions, special interests, and seasonal events.

Transit Diagrams. The transit diagram at the beginning of each regional chapter shows the main trunk line (usually the bullet train) traversing the region, together with other train and bus lines that branch off. The main junctions on the trunk line are assigned roman numerals and treated as jumping-off points from which to explore side routes; the stations along the side routes are assigned arabic numerals. The text describes in numerical order each main junction, followed by the side routes; their direction is denoted by the letters "N" for north, "E" for east, and so forth. For example, suppose you want to visit Dewa Sanzan (transit key number IV:W3) in Tohoku. To see how to get there, turn to the Tohoku transit diagram (p.152); go down the trunk line to the fourth city, Sendai ,then go west three notches. The text follows the same organization and is, in effect, a series of mini-itineraries.

Dining, Lodgings, and Local Maps. Dining and lodging facilities are listed at the end of each town or locale. Telephone area codes are usually listed beside the lodgings heading. Shops, restaurants, and hotels will appear on local maps according to a number-key system. (See inside front cover for a key to symbols.) Ratings are awarded on a scale of from one to three stars based on quality, service, and atmosphere. Credit-card information is supplied for every establishment for which the information was available.

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Product Description


"... excellent bilingual maps.... If I could take only one guide with me, this would be the one." -- Book World

"... get the book for the front essays on art, castles, history, matsuri, and my favorite ... 'One-hour Japanese.' " -- Tokyo Journal

"It is the guide I wish I had to help me know what I was seeing." -- The Explorers Journal

"The fire and flavor of Japan pour from these pages...." -- Knight-Ridder News Service

"We've tried very hard to find something ... left out of their wide-ranging guide, but we've failed...." -- Traveller's Bookstore

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Japan underwent three distinct cultural transformations during its prehistoric era (ca. 100,000 B.C.-A.D. 538). Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget lonely planet--pick this up instead! Feb. 19 2002
My friend and I bought this in a Tokyo bookstore during our trip. We had come equipped with a Lonely Planet guide, but found its perpetual bad attitude a huge drag.
The locations described range from standard tourist attractions to out of the way treasures that give the traveller a comprehensive sense of Japan. We used this guide as we travelled all over Honshuu (the main island)to several famous large (i.e. Tokyo, Kyoto) and small lesser-known cities (i.e. Kakunodate, Dewasanzan). The book gave us indispensible insight into each city, and attracted us to incredible places we no doubt would never have seen if we stuck with Lonely Planet.
The book includes housing accomodation and food recommendations, with valuable cultural information for each town.
I highly recommend this book for its thoughtful and detailed representation of Japan. The information was accurate and helpful, both for basic survival purposes and for a greater historical and cultural context for each town.
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5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a guidebook Aug. 12 2006
Gateway to Japan is more than a mere guidebook. In fact, even though the book is outdated, the information is still relevant. The sheer amount of information regarding Shintoism, Buddhism and Japan's history really gives depth with regards to the place you're visiting. And if you have an inkling to head off the beaten path, the book does provide a good deal of information about more obscure locations.

Is this book perfect? No, because well, it IS outdated. In spite of the wonderful essays and background information, Japan has seen its fair share of development over the past 8 years or so. However, this book is a great asset to carry along with you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest Jan. 19 2003
Having lived in Japan for the past 6 years, I've had the opportunity to use all of the major guidebooks (and quite a few of the minor ones as well), and without a doubt, the most useful and informative guidebook is this one. Of course Lonely Planet has lots of information about restaurants and hotels, but you can get the tourist information center to help you with hotels and wherever you walk you can find plenty of nice restaurants. What you really want is a purpose to visit the places that you are visiting. Lonely Planet just tells you what things are, but this guidebooks tells you the history of each place, so you can understand why each place is important. If you're looking for a guidebook to tell you where the clubs, hangouts, and youth hostels are, then maybe this isn't the book you're looking for. However, if you're looking for a nice meaty book to feed you mind on, this is it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The ONE book you must have for Japan travel Dec 7 2002
This book has everything...history of the country, essays on architectural styles, religion, festivals, Inn and bath ettiquete, language, and very extensive hotel, transportation,shopping and dining information. The maps and directions are always correct, and their ratings always match the product. I'm on my third edition, and wouldn't dream of heading to Japan without it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars My travel companion Sept. 25 2002
By Nancy
After four and a half years living in Japan , five return trips and purchases of many guide books of uneven quality I was delighted to come across "Gateway to Japan". It became my most reliable travel companion. On one trip through the back roads of Japan during which I saw few English speakers and was forced to fall back on my sketchy Japanese, with little to read in English I found that "Gateway to Japan" became my bedtime reading. It has served me well. It is well organized and most informative.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Mostly a miss with few hits Sept. 4 2002
I took this book with me to Japan and I was disappointed. There is plenty of detail about history, sumo wrestling, and art with little practical information. Plus I found errors in directions, maps etc. Here are my issues with this book.
1) The coverage of how to use the train system is horrible. There is more than just the JR system, much more. Don't buy the rail pass unless you plan to do major traveling all over. It skips things like basic ticket purchasing, transfer tickets, what the signs mean when red/green/black/flashing, how to get on and off a platform etc. Did you know that English speaking rail people or even the police wear a red badge on their shoulder to indicate they speak English? These are the sorts of things this book misses.
2) Restaurant/places are described in the text and numbered like they should be on the corresponding map, but then aren't always. This happened at least 3 times in Tokyo, and once in Hakone that I can recollect off the top of my head.
3) The maps leave a lot to be desired. There is no coherence between maps. It was hard to even make this book work with the map book I bought.
4) Better coverage of how to get to or even spot subway stations would have been nice. I also didn't like how if you weren't at a specific starting place, it was hard to get to another destination because the directions only came in one form and again, the maps aren't much help here.
Overall, some of the details the book covers on history and such were nice to have once you got somewhere, but the practical information such as how to get around was severely lacking. I don't recommend this book. I bought it cause it had a 5 star rating. I gave it 1 star to bring that down to a more appropriate 2-3 star rating.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The only one you need.
I used this book when I lived in Japan in the early 1990's -- the Fodor's and Lonley Planet gathered dust on my bookshelf. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2002 by Rhonda
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, even for the 1-week trip
I went to Japan on business for 8 days, and found this book very helpful. Repeatedly gave good advice on sights to see (and traps to avoid), as well as good advice on traveling... Read more
Published on July 27 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Look for "Kodansha"
It seems like every really, really good book about Japan has the name Kodansha on it. That has become the mark of quality that I look for. Read more
Published on April 23 2002 by Zack Davisson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Lot
I recently completed a 19 day trip to Kyoto and Tokyo. If there is a perfect comprehensive guide to Japan I have yet to find it, despite buying 6 of them. Read more
Published on March 8 2002 by Scott Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars The only guide you will need for Japan
I read many reviews of Japan guidebooks and bought severalof them. This book was, by far, the best. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2001 by Silver Springer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best! Ichiban!
Quite simply the best guidebook I have found on Japan. I bought my copy 10 years ago and I am still using it today. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001 by I. Chung
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Japanese Guidebook by far!!
I live in Japan and regularly use this guidebook for both weekend trips and longer trips. Not only is there incredible detail about each location and place to stay, but the rating... Read more
Published on July 24 2001
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