Best Japan Travel Guide Books for 2020

Best Japan Travel Guide Books

If you are either doing early planning for your trip to Japan or are in the final stages you are likely to be considering which Japan travel guide book makes sense to purchase.

You may not realise that there are different Japan travel guide books which make sense at the different planning stages, so here are my recommended travel guide books for inspiration, early planning and for while you are travelling. All of my top picks are recent releases which are available from the Amazon USA and other country stores, and many are available in both printed and Kindle versions.

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Best Japan Travel Guide Books for 2020

New! Only in Japan by Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess

If you are keen to check out Tokyo food culture through the eyes of two top Australian chefs then this is the guide book you need!  Click here to check out the price and order through Amazon!

Only in Tokyo is a guided tour through the city’s dynamic food scene through the words of Michael Ryan and the lens of Luke Burgess, two of Australia’s top chefs. From daybreak to late night, discover the creative people and compelling stories behind the unique restaurants, cafes, bars and tea houses of the world’s most exciting food city.

Anyone who has ever visited Tokyo knows that, with over 160,000 restaurants in the city, recommendations on where to go to eat are essential. In Only in Tokyo, you’re aided by a team of local experts chefs, baristas, journalists and sommeliers to help you navigate the complex food scene with ease. Discover the best of all the classic foods of Japan, and more. Sushi, takoyaki, ramen, sandwiches, burgers done brilliantly, donuts: with a photograph of every venue, accompanied by basic information on why it is worth a visit and what house speciality to order, along with its address and opening times.

Use this book to give you a flavour of Tokyo, and to point you in some tasty directions.

New! Tokyo Maze – 42 Walks in and around the Japanese Capital: A Guide with 108 Photos, 48 Maps, 300 Weblinks and 100 Tips by Axel Schwab

If you are keen to get off the beaten track and explore Tokyo on foot then this is the guide book for you!  Click here to check out the price and order through Amazon!

Tokyo Maze – 42 Walks is no ordinary travel guide. The author is no stranger to Japan either, having spent over 25 years visiting the country as a student, on work assignments and as a writer. He even lived in Tokyo for five years. Alongside all the main attractions, this guide takes you to places which don’t get a mention elsewhere. The information included in the guide is fully up to date, thanks to another in-depth research trip to the city in April 2018.

Inside the guide:
• 42 complete walking tours to 500 sights in and around Tokyo.
• Each itinerary begins and ends at a railway or subway station.
• Recommend lunch-break and coffee-stop for each walk.
• 48 area maps reliably steer the visitor through the maze of Tokyo streets.
• 108 photos offer first impressions.
• Over 100 insider tips aid readers in their pre-trip preparations and during their stay.
• 300 bookmarks enable travellers to access additional information on the Internet.
• A calendar shows at a glance which festivals are taking place at any given time.
• Personal Top 10 tips on architecture, observation points, parks and gardens, shopping streets and malls, boutiques, hotels, restaurants, fine arts and other museums, showrooms, theatres, temples and shrines.
• Online maps are available for 20 of the tours, featuring additional tips on accommodation, shopping, and food and drink.

New!  Tokyo Pocket Precincts: A Pocket Guide to the City’s Best Cultural Hangouts, Shops, Bars and Eateries 

A favourite for many of our group members are these Pocket Precinct Mini Guide Books to Tokyo and Kyoto by a duo of Australian authors, Michelle Mackintosh and Steven Wide.  Click here to check out the latest prices and order through Amazon.

Tokyo is a city like no other, a looming contemporary metropolis where every turn is a new adventure. There are bright lights and neon signs, bars under railway bridges, Michelin ramen and sushi, tech, toys and vintage shopping. The crazy, the cute, the chic and the traditional are all flourishing in this city’s broad thoroughfares and narrow lanes. Tokyo Pocket Precincts is crammed with all the tips you’ll need to shop, eat, drink and explore this truly surprising city, from your morning coffee to your evening on the town. Also included is a selection of ‘field trips’ to encourage you to explore outside the city, including Nikko, Hakone, Mount Takao, and the cute ‘Eno-den’ train from Kamakura to Enoshima and Fujisawa.

New!  Kyoto Pocket Precincts: A Pocket Guide to the City’s Best Cultural Hangouts, Shops, Bars and Eateries

A favourite for many of our group members are these Pocket Precinct Mini Guide Books to Tokyo and Kyoto by a duo of Australian authors, Michelle Mackintosh and Steven Wide.  Click here to check out the latest prices and order through Amazon.

Kyoto is steeped in history, tradition and beauty that reflect the changing seasons more than any other city in the world. There are 2,000 temples and shrines to visit, and the intricate culture of geisha, tea houses, Zen gardens and artisan crafts are just as important today as they were a thousand years ago. There are beautiful restaurants in centuries-old houses, but also some of the best street food in the world.

In this pocket-size travel guide, seasoned travellers Steve and Michelle offer a curated list of the very best cultural, shopping, eating and drinking experiences in Kyoto, as well as a few suggested field trips in surrounding areas. With a beautiful design, vibrant images and detailed reviews, you’ll easily navigate the city’s ancient pathways, through to its bonsai gardens. Konnichi wa and welcome to Kyoto!

Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More – The Ultimate Guide to Japan’s Otaku Culture

Highly recommended by one of our Facebook Group members, if you are into Japan’s Otaku culture then you definitely need to check out this guide book.  Click here to check out the latest prices and to order through Amazon.

Tokyo is ground zero for Japan’s famous “geek” or otaku culture—a phenomenon that has now swept across the globe.

This is the most comprehensive Japan travel guide ever produced which features Tokyo’s geeky underworld. It provides a comprehensive run-down of each major Tokyo district where geeks congregate, shop, play and hang out—from hi-tech Akihabara and trendy Harajuku to newer and lesser-known haunts like chic Shimo-Kita and working-class Ikebukuro.

Dozens of iconic shops, restaurants, cafes and clubs in each area are described in loving detail with precise directions to get to each location. Maps, URLs, opening hours and over 400 fascinating color photographs bring you around Tokyo on an unforgettable trip to the centers of Japanese manga, anime and geek culture. Interviews with local otaku experts and people on the street let you see the world from their perspective and provide insights into Tokyo and Japanese culture, which will only continue to spread around the globe.

Japanese pop culture, in its myriad forms, is more widespread today than ever before—with J-Pop artists playing through speakers everywhere, Japanese manga filling every bookstore; anime cartoons on TV; and toys and video games, like Pokemon Go, played by tens of millions of people.

Swarms of visitors come to Tokyo each year on a personal quest to soak in all the otaku-related sights and enjoy Japanese manga, anime, gaming and idol culture at its very source. This is the go-to resource for those planning a trip, or simply dreaming of visiting one day!

30 Arts of Edo-Tokyo: A guide to the best hands-on cultural experiences in Japan by Axel Schwab

Axel has created a lovely book chock full of Edo period cultural experiences in Tokyo, so if you are keen to have an authentic cultural experience then this is the book for you!  Click here to check out the latest prices and to order!

Whether you’re visiting Tokyo for the first time or you’ve been there before, there’s still plenty of time between sightseeing, dining and shopping for some new experiences. In order to help you make the most of your time, I present 30 activities in this book, each lasting 1-3 hours, in all of which you will learn a lot about Japanese culture and lifestyle.

• Ten courses deal with traditional and historical hobbies and crafts that were once reserved for the nobility.
• Another ten have their focus on handicrafts that were widespread in ancient Tokyo (Edo).
• Also the culinary is covered with the best cooking courses I could find.
• In four pages I give you all the important information about the short courses, which are priced between $4-100 (US).
• In addition, 120 photos help you to get an impression of the course in advance.
• I did all the activities myself and evaluate them completely independently, because I attended as a tourist and always paid the full price.
• You will only find a few of these activities on the online portals.
• For the evaluation of the courses I applied strict standards and included only those in the book that fulfilled my high expectations for authenticity, value for money and suitability for tourists without knowledge of Japan.

Walking and Trekking in the Japan Alps and Mount Fuji by Tom Fay and Wes Lang

If you love hiking and trekking, the Japanese Alps and Mt Fuji should definitely be on your bucket list for your visit to Japan.  This book is a great option to learn more about the different trails and options available.  Click here to check out the latest prices and to order!

This guidebook presents nine day-walks and thirteen treks of 2–8 days in the magnificent Japan Alps, plus the four main routes up Japan’s highest mountain, Mt Fuji (3776m), and a further route on neighbouring Mt Kurodake. The Japan Alps stretch across the middle of the main island of Honshu and include several peaks over 3000m. Mt Fuji lies to the south: an active stratovolcano (though with minimal risk of eruption), it has become an iconic symbol of Japan and sees 300,000 visitors to its summit every year.

The guide includes all the information you will need to plan a successful walking or trekking holiday, with a wealth of advice on travel, bases, accommodation and facilities. The Japan Alps and Mt Fuji boast a well-developed walking infrastructure, and the routes make use of the many mountain huts and campgrounds, full details of which are given in the guide. Some also include the opportunity to visit a traditional hot spring bath for a refreshing soak after your hike.

The routes visit many of the region’s key summits, including several over 3000m. They are graded according to difficulty, although several entail steep ascents and difficult terrain and some include scrambling and exposure calling for a sure foot and a good head for heights. Comprehensive step-by-step route descriptions are accompanied by clear mapping and there are additional notes on plants and wildlife, the history of hiking in Japan and safety in the mountains, as well as full mountain hut listings and a helpful glossary. Inspirational colour photography completes the package.

Onsen of Japan: Japan’s Best Hot Springs and Bath Houses

This gorgeous new release book about onsens (or hot springs) in Japan is well worth a place on your bookshelf. Click here to check out the latest prices and to order!

As a country blessed with natural geothermal energy, no trip to Japan is complete without an authentic onsen (hot spring) experience. Yet this world has remained a mystery to many western travellers, who are keen to take advantage of the onsen’s relaxing qualities and healing properties. Onsen of Japan is your entry into art of Japanese communal bathing.

Featuring listings for more 2500 onsens across the country, authors Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh have selected out the very best places to enjoy this quintessential Japanese experience – including traditional 7th-century baths, historic wooden buildings, open-air mountain springs, rustic neighbourhood baths, and big city super santos (aquatic centres). Alongside vivid descriptions and beautiful images, each listing includes a checklist with important travel information, such as price range, whether same-sex or mixed bathing is available, whether English is spoken, and if tattoos are accepted. A detailed introduction at the front of the book includes a guide to etiquette, onsen rules, customs and quirks, as well as information on different water types and their healing benefits.

The authors also offer tips on how to take a bath like a local, bathing in different seasons, the best places to take a foot bath (ashiyu) or hand bath (teyu), and where you can cook your own onsen egg. Slip off your clothes and ease yourself into the world of the Japanese onsen. One thing is for sure, taking a bath will never be the same again.

Lonely Planet Discover Japan

The Lonely Planet Discover Japan travel guide book is a great option to get an overview of the major tourist destinations in Japan, and has a good balance of information and photos to help you plan your trip. An earlier version of this book is what we used for our trip to Japan and we also found it was quite useful as we were travelling, so a very versatile guide book option. The new version was released in November 2017 so should be mostly up to date. This guide book is only available as a paperback edition. Click here to check out the latest prices and to order.

Japanese Inns and Hot Springs: A Guide to Japan’s Best Ryokan & Onsen

The gorgeous photos in this new release guide to Japan’s Inns and Hot Springs will inspire you to travel beyond the beaten track in Japan to find the extraordinary. This guide book is available as either a softcopy or Kindle edition. Click here to check out the latest prices and to order.

Richly illustrated and exhaustively researched, Japanese Inns & Hot Springs is the definitive guide to Japanese spas and hot springs known as ryokans.

It presents the finest ryokans in Japan, from historic properties like Hiiragiya in Kyoto and Kikkaso in Hakone to luxury retreats like Zaborin in Hokkaido and Tenku-no-Mori in Kyushu.

  • In this Japan travel guide you will find:
  • The 40 best Japanese ryokan and onsens for English-speaking visitors (including 13 in the Tokyo area and 11 in and around Kyoto and Nara)
  • A description of the special features of each ryokan and what is included in your stay
  • Tips on how to choose the right ryokan for you
  • Practical advice on how to book a stay and a detailed etiquette guide

Above all else this ryokan guide reveals the enduring traditions of Japanese hospitality, a rich heritage reaching back a thousand years to the time when Japan’s hot spring bathing culture took root. The beautiful properties in this book also illustrate the unique design sensibility for which Japan is so justly renowned.

Indispensable tips on booking a Japanese ryokan that is right for you along with a detailed etiquette guide to staying at a ryokan and bathing in an onsen, as well as descriptions of the special features of each of the inns featured.

Japan Traveler’s Companion: Japan’s Most Famous Sights From Okinawa to Hokkaido

For true trip inspiration the Japan Traveler’s Companion: Japan’s Most Famous Sights From Okinawa to Hokkaido provides great photos and an overview of the major sights and culture of Japan, including:

    • detailed itineraries for each region
    • Information on the country’s 100 most important tourist sights, including 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
    • Illustrated introductions to Japanese cuisine, popular culture, and Samurai history
    • A map of each region with suggested walks

This guide book is available as either a hardcopy or Kindle edition. Click here to see the latest prices and to order.

Tokyo Style Guide: Eat * Sleep * Shop

In Tokyo Style Guide author Jane Lawson offers a unique insight into Japan’s culture and aesthetic with her expert guided walks through 21 of the most intriguing and stylish Tokyo neighborhoods and the best of what they have to offer. Jane shares information on how to get the most from your trip – what to see and how best to experience it.

Click here to see the latest prices and to order

Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto: A Guide to Kyoto’s Most Important Sites

If you are keen to check out Kyoto’s Zen gardens and temples then this book is a great option to learn more about 50 World Heritage sites in Kyoto with lovely photos and detailed overviews of each site. This book will definitely inspire you to visit Kyoto and identify where you might want to visit while you are there. This book is available as either a hardcopy or Kindle edition. Click here to see the latest prices and to order.

Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas

The Super Cheap Japan travel guide book is the ultimate budget travel guide to Japan, full of the most useful, up-to-date information for a cheap holiday in Japan. This book includes guides to the major tourist destinations, tips to find cheap accommodation, food, attractions and more, and is a great option for both early trip inspiration and planning and also while you are on the go in Japan. This book is available as either a paperback or Kindle edition. Click here to see the latest prices and to order.

My favourite sites to obtain up to date information about Japan include Japan Guide for general Japan information, and Tokyo Cheapo, in particular for details of upcoming events.

Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join my Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

You may also like to check out some of my other articles such as the following:

Your Japan Planning Calendar

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