Andrea Urbinati

Explore Japan: 13 Top Travel Guide Books of 2023

Di Andrea Urbinati

blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo
Discover the perfect Japan guide books for your trip, from exploring Tokyo's secrets to handling a summer visit. A guide book is your roadmap to adventure.
guide book japan


If you’ve ever dreamed of the best Japan travel experience, then today is your lucky day! 

Ever since I caught the travel bug, my feet have touched the charming cobblestone streets of Kyoto, the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, and every serene shrine and bustling marketplace in between. 

Japan, a country rich in culture and overflowing with remarkable experiences, has been a journey like no other.

But as any seasoned tourist will tell you, visiting the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t just about getting your passport stamped.

Oh no, dear reader, it’s about immersing yourself in the country, understanding its heartbeat, and really living its experiences. That’s where travel guide books come in!

You know, those seemingly innocuous collections of paper, bound together and filled with secrets of the universe…okay, maybe not the universe, but certainly everything you need to plan your trip

From the best ramen joints in Tokyo that could make a grown man cry tears of joy, to the quietest temples in Kyoto where you can hear your own heartbeat, these guides have it all!

One of my favorites, “Lonely Planet,” became my trusty sidekick, never failing to point me to the nearest sushi bar when hunger struck in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing. Trust me, nothing can make you feel more like a lost kitten in a typhoon than trying to navigate the streets of Tokyo without a guide.

Now, if you’re gearing up to visit Japan, I’m thrilled to share my latest treasure trove: “Explore Japan: 13 Top Travel Guide Books of 2023.” This post aims to help you discover not just the best travel spots, but to deliver an experience that will have you whispering arigato to the wind as you leave.

But before we dive into that, don’t forget to swing by my most coveted list, “Top 36+ Unique and Secret Things to Do in Japan in 2023“. This list is jam-packed with the kind of insider knowledge that only comes from years of personal experience and love for Japanese culture. Trust me, it’s a must-read before you plan your itinerary.

And if you want more, check out my previous article, “10 Insider Tips For An Epic Travel Through Japan In 2023“. It’s packed with tips and tricks I’ve learned on the road, ones that will make your journey smoother than a bowl of finely made Chawanmushi.

So grab your adventurer’s hat, and let’s embark on this journey to find the guide that will unlock the very best of Japan for you!


a japanese restaurant


Personal Journey with a Guide to Japan

When I first set foot in Japan, I was an eager traveler armed with nothing more than a suitcase full of dreams and a phrasebook. Ah, the blissful ignorance of a first-timer! Despite the thrill of embarking on a new journey, I quickly discovered that experiencing Japan for the first time was a bit like being dropped into the middle of a beautifully intricate ballet, without knowing any of the steps.

One early memory that stands out is my first attempt at speaking Japanese. 

There I was, in a small ramen shop in Tokyo, trying to order a bowl of ramen. I mustered all my courage, took a deep breath, and blurted out a sentence that I had practiced for days. The room went silent, and then erupted in a chorus of laughter. 

As it turned out, instead of asking for a bowl of ramen, I had proudly proclaimed that I was, in fact, a bowl of ramen. Let’s just say, it was a good thing I could laugh at myself!

It was incidents like these, combined with the sheer richness and complexity of the culture of Japan, that made me realize the need for a good Japan travel guide. And thus began my search for the ultimate guidebook. 

A search that led me to “Lonely Planet Japan,” one of the best books I’ve found for navigating throughout the country. It became my Rosetta Stone, my compass, my lifeline in deciphering the intricacies of this mesmerizing land.

Now, as a seasoned traveler, I realize that one of the cornerstones of responsible travel is understanding and respecting the local culture. That’s why I wrote an entire post on “Surviving Japan With 25+ Essential Phrases For Tourists“. I promise you, it’s more than just learning how to correctly order ramen!


street in kyoto, japan


Importance of Travel Guides

My first trip to Japan was a whirlwind of new experiences. The neon lights of Tokyo, the serenity of Kyoto’s temples, the hustle and bustle of Osaka – everything was a feast for the senses. However, as any first-time visitor would testify, traveling in Japan can also be quite the culture shock.

Let me paint a picture: It was a hot August day, so humid that even the air seemed to sweat. I was armed with nothing but a few basic phrases in Japanese and a head full of excitement. I distinctly remember walking into a restaurant, hoping to cool off and grab a bite. 

There I was, standing in front of the chef, confidently ordering what I thought was a simple noodle dish. What I didn’t realize was that I had inadvertently ordered a heaping bowl of wasabi!

 The chef’s quizzical look should have been a dead giveaway, but, well, you live and you learn! If you’re planning to travel to Japan in the summer months, make sure to check out my post on “August Weather In Japan: Embrace The Summer Vibes!” to better understand what to expect and how to prepare.

That was just one of the many instances that made me appreciate the importance of travel guides. A good travel guide is more than just a directory of the best places to visit. It’s like a trusty companion that tells you everything you need to know, from where to find the tastiest ramen to how to navigate the labyrinthine subway system of Tokyo.

And trust me, when you’re thousands of miles away from home, it’s not just your travel insurance that gives you peace of mind, it’s also that well-thumbed guide book. It’s like having a knowledgeable friend whispering in your ear, guiding you through the mesmerizing culture in Japan.

The importance of a travel guide cannot be overstated, especially when you’re venturing into a country as multifaceted as Japan. 

A good guide book is like your personal roadmap, highlighting the must-see spots, hidden gems, and everything in between. It’s an insider’s view, a snapshot of the country’s soul, curated and penned down for your convenience. 

For those looking to explore Japan in the fall, I highly recommend reading “September In Japan: Nature’s Beauty & Mild Temps Await!” to get a feel for what this beautiful time of year has to offer.

But here’s the thing: not all guide books are created equal. It’s crucial to find the one that aligns with your travel style and preferences. 

For instance, if you’re a food enthusiast, you’d want a guide that deep-dives into the local cuisine, from the freshest sushi spots in Tsukiji to the creamiest matcha ice cream in Kyoto. If history is your jam, a guide that walks you through Japan’s rich historical timeline, from ancient temples to modern skyscrapers, would be your best bet.

Choosing the perfect guide book is a bit like choosing the right pair of shoes for a marathon. You want it to fit just right, to be comfortable, and to support you every step of the way. Just as you wouldn’t want to run a marathon in ill-fitting shoes, you wouldn’t want to explore Japan with a guide book that doesn’t resonate with you.

Lastly, it’s crucial to remember that while a guide book is an invaluable tool, it’s your curiosity and openness to new experiences that truly shape your journey. 

A guide book might point you to a hidden alleyway, but it’s your sense of adventure that will lead you down that path. So, here’s to finding the perfect guide book and to creating your own unforgettable journey in the beautiful land of Japan!


landscape japan city tokyo


Review of Top 13 Travel Guide Books

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

This guide is ideal for those who are keen on exploring Tokyo on foot. The author has spent over 25 years visiting Japan and offers insights into main attractions as well as lesser-known places. The guide includes 42 walking tours, recommended lunch and coffee stops, virtual walks, improved area maps, insider tips, bookmarks for additional online information, a festival calendar, and online maps with additional tips for 21 tours1.


Take Your Toddlers To Tokyo: An Infant Parents Planning Guide For What To Expect From Japan by Wisterian Watertree 

This guide is designed specifically for parents traveling with toddlers. The author, who has lived in Japan for 15 years and brought up three children there, shares practical advice on everything from finding baby-changing facilities in the subway to sourcing child-friendly food in family restaurants1.


Only in Tokyo: Two chefs, 24 hours, the ultimate food city by Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess 

This guide takes you through Tokyo’s food scene through the eyes of two top Australian chefs. It includes recommendations for unique restaurants, cafes, bars, and tea houses in the city, featuring the classic foods of Japan like sushi, takoyaki, ramen, and more. Each recommended venue is accompanied by a photo, information on why it’s worth a visit, what to order, its address, and opening times1.


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

If you have a thing for Kyoto’s Zen gardens and temples, this book is just what you need. You’ll learn about 50 World Heritage sites in Kyoto through beautiful photos and detailed descriptions. It’s a great source of inspiration for your Kyoto visit, and will help you plan out the sites you want to see.

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

If you’re traveling on a budget, this book is your ultimate guide to Japan. It’s packed with the most current, useful information for a cost-effective holiday in Japan. From guides to major tourist destinations to tips on finding affordable accommodation, food, and attractions, this book is an essential resource for your trip planning and on-the-go needs in Japan.


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

This mini guide book by Australian authors Michelle Mackintosh and Steven Wide is a favorite among many travelers. It offers tips for shopping, eating, drinking, and exploring Tokyo, from your morning coffee to your evening on the town. The guide also includes ‘field trips’ for exploring outside the city, including Nikko, Hakone, Mount Takao, and the cute ‘Eno-den’ train from Kamakura to Enoshima and Fujisawa1.


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

If you’re a fan of Japan’s onsens, or hot springs, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to check out “Onsen of Japan: Japan’s Best Hot Springs and Bath Houses”. This beautifully crafted book is not just about onsens, it’s a doorway to an authentic Japanese experience. It’s your personal guide to more than 2,500 onsens across Japan, each one handpicked by authors Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh. Each onsen is meticulously detailed, with essential information like price, bathing rules, and whether or not they’re tattoo-friendly. What I particularly enjoyed was the in-depth guide to onsen etiquette and the informative bits on the different types of water and their health benefits. This book is your passport to enjoy the quintessential Japanese experience of communal bathing.


“Lonely Planet Japan”

Is like a trusted companion for any traveler. This travel guide gives you a great overview of Japan’s major tourist destinations. It has a well-rounded mix of information and visuals, helping you get a feel for the places you plan to visit. What I really appreciate about this guide is its simplicity and clarity, making it ideal for first-time visitors and seasoned travellers alike. It’s like having a well-informed friend whispering insider tips right into your ear, helping you plan your journey in the best way possible. This guidebook is a must-have for anyone wanting a broad understanding of what Japan has to offer.


“Tokyo Style Guide: Eat * Sleep * Shop” 

Authored by Jane Lawson, this book provides a unique cultural and aesthetic perspective of Tokyo’s 21 stylish and intriguing neighborhoods. It’s an expert guide that not only tells you what to see but how best to experience it. If you’re looking to get the most out of your Tokyo trip, then this book should be in your travel bag.


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

Is like the holy grail for those who are deeply fascinated by Japan’s Otaku culture. It’s got the personal stamp of approval from one of our Facebook Group members! This guide is a comprehensive journey into the heart of Tokyo’s geeky underworld. From Akihabara’s high-tech landscape to the trendy vibes of Harajuku, it covers all the geeky hotspots. What I love about this guide is its attention to detail. With every page, you’re transported to iconic shops, cafes, clubs, and more in Tokyo’s geek culture hub. It’s like having a friendly local guide in your pocket, ready to give you an insider’s perspective on Tokyo’s Otaku scene. This guidebook is perfect for anyone planning to immerse themselves in the epicentre of manga, anime, and Japanese geek culture.


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

This exquisite book captures the beauty and allure of Japan’s ryokans and onsens with stunning visuals. It’s like stepping off the beaten path into a world that’s exotic and full of rich traditions. The book offers valuable insights into the 40 finest ryokans across Japan, and provides practical advice on booking, along with a detailed etiquette guide. It truly underscores the thousand-year-old tradition of Japanese hospitality and design. So whether you’re seeking the historic charm of Hiiragiya in Kyoto or the luxurious haven of Zaborin in Hokkaido, this book has it all.


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

Now, if you want to get inspired, this book will take you on a scenic tour of Japan’s most renowned sights. It’s a comprehensive guide that includes detailed itineraries, information on Japan’s top 100 tourist sights including 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and even illustrated introductions to Japanese cuisine and Samurai history. You’ll also find handy maps and suggested walks for each region.


street in japan


Q1: What is the primary purpose of a travel guide book for Japan? A1: The primary purpose of a travel guide book for Japan is to serve as a roadmap for adventure, helping travelers immerse themselves in the country, understand its culture, and live its experiences. These guide books provide essential information for planning trips, from discovering the best dining spots to navigating the streets and cultural sites.

Q2: What kind of valuable information can travelers find in a Japan travel guide book? A2: Travelers can find a wealth of valuable information in Japan travel guide books, including details on the best ramen joints in Tokyo, quiet temples in Kyoto, directions for navigating city streets, cultural insights, insider tips, local customs, and much more. These guides help travelers experience Japan more deeply and meaningfully.

Q3: Why is “Lonely Planet Japan” considered a valuable travel guide? A3: “Lonely Planet Japan” is considered a valuable travel guide because it provides a comprehensive overview of Japan’s major tourist destinations, combining simplicity, clarity, and a well-rounded mix of information and visuals. It is ideal for both first-time visitors and seasoned travelers, offering insider tips and easy-to-follow guidance.

Q4: What specific travel guide is recommended for exploring Tokyo on foot? A4: “Tokyo Maze – 42 Walks in and around the Japanese Capital” by Axel Schwab is recommended for exploring Tokyo on foot. This guide offers 42 walking tours, area maps, insider tips, and bookmarks for additional online information, making it ideal for discovering both main attractions and lesser-known places in Tokyo.

Q5: Which guide book is specifically designed for parents traveling with toddlers to Tokyo? A5: “Take Your Toddlers To Tokyo: An Infant Parents Planning Guide For What To Expect From Japan” by Wisterian Watertree is designed for parents traveling with toddlers. The author shares practical advice based on 15 years of living in Japan and raising children there, covering everything from baby-changing facilities to child-friendly dining options.

Q6: For food enthusiasts, which travel guide offers insights into Tokyo’s culinary scene? A6: “Only in Tokyo: Two chefs, 24 hours, the ultimate food city” by Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess is a guide that offers insights into Tokyo’s culinary scene. It features recommendations for unique restaurants, cafes, bars, and tea houses, focusing on classic Japanese foods and the city’s diverse gastronomy.

Q7: What guide book focuses on Kyoto’s Zen gardens and temples? A7: “Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto: A Guide to Kyoto’s Most Important Sites” focuses on Kyoto’s Zen gardens and temples. It provides detailed descriptions and photos of 50 World Heritage sites in Kyoto, offering inspiration and planning assistance for visiting these historical locations.

Q8: Which guide book is geared towards budget travel in Japan? A8: “Super Cheap Japan: Budget Travel in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Surrounding Areas” is geared towards budget travel. It contains current, useful information for an affordable holiday in Japan, covering cheap accommodation, food, attractions, and major tourist destinations.

Q9: What travel guide book is useful for exploring Japan’s onsens (hot springs)? A9: “Onsen of Japan: Japan’s Best Hot Springs and Bath Houses” is a useful guide for exploring Japan’s onsens. It provides details on over 2,500 onsens across Japan, including information on price, bathing rules, and tattoo-friendly options, along with a guide to onsen etiquette.

Q10: For travelers interested in Japan’s ryokans and onsens, which book provides comprehensive information? A10: “Japanese Inns and Hot Springs: A Guide to Japan’s Best Ryokan & Onsen” provides comprehensive information on Japan’s ryokans and onsens. It details 40 of the finest ryokans across Japan, offers practical booking advice, and includes a detailed etiquette guide, capturing the essence of Japanese hospitality and design.



I encourage all of you to share your experiences with these guide books, or any others that you’ve found helpful on your Japanese adventures. Your insights can be invaluable to others planning their own trips! Japan is a nation rich in culture, history, and unforgettable sights. To truly capture the essence of this incredible place, it’s beneficial to have a well-researched guide book at your disposal. So let’s delve into this beautiful country with an open heart, a sense of wonder, and a trusty guide book in hand. Happy travels!

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About the author
blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hi! I’m Andrea, a passionate freelance writer with a knack for captivating storytelling.

With a decade of marketing expertise and a genuine love for crafting compelling content, I bring your ideas to life!

Let me know if you need a writer for your blog!

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