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> Tokyo - (30 albums)
> Kyoto - (4 albums)
> Osaka - (3 albums)
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Famous places
well known areas...

> in Tokyo
> Shibuya
> Shinjuku
> Harajuku
> Ginza
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> Akihabara
> Ueno
> Ebisu
> ... and more.

> in Kyoto
> Kyoto, Higashiyama
> Arashiyama
> ... and more.

Photo: Shibuya Foodshow court. Giving it a deep thought and choosing the right kind of pastry is a national pastime.

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Japanese Pictures of...

> Japanese Fashion
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The Shinkansen and the Japan train system

Japanese Architecture
Buddhist Temple, Shinto Shrine

Featured Travel Guide articles:

Japan Guide

Tokyo guide


Suggested Itinerary
photo guide by weeks

Week 1 - Tokyo
Week 2 - Tokyo,Kanto
Week 3 - Nikko
Week 4 - Tokyo
Week 5 - Kyoto
Week 6 - Osaka,Nara
Week 7 - Tokyo,Kanto
Week 8 - Hokkaido

Or click here for more detailed info on the tours.



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Japan Travel Guide

Japanese maps and navi(gation)
the good and the bad parts about map-loving Japan

An unadmitted fact of Japan is that quick access maps supposedly made to pinpoint some location and guide you to it... are more or less useless, unless you know the neighborhood you're heading to. It's an interesting thing because nearly all facilities have such graphics prepared in one way or another, people like to draw such maps for others to help them, it would seem to be reasonable to think that this tradition has grown into something more refined than a sketching technique, but in fact it didn't. With real maps being world class in detail and ease of use... and mobile and satellite based navigational systems so refined you could walk through the city with your eyes closed... all this may wind up to be quite an enigma for those not used to it.

Why not to rely on quick access maps too heavily ?
The fact seems to be originating from the following two facts :

- Japanese access maps basically disregard the traditions that have set where north usually is on a map. Not just it's never at the top, but you won't always be able to tell where it is or actually should be. At best you'll have a little arrow pointing to a random direction to indicate it, but that's quite an uncommon luxury.

- Japanese access maps are symbolized based on visible landmarks and other checkpoints that the people approaching to them can relate to. Which is great for they're quite easy to find and understand... given the proper circumstances. Well this leads to two other facts, which are that because of this, distance is symbolized as well, and that if you're not approaching from either of the recommended directions ( let's say the nearest station ) these maps are more or less useless.

We recommend you to get your maps from the
Dekkaji Mappu series - around 1,200 yen each
(click here for a printable reference )

This isn't just a problem for visitors, not even Japanese can tell. It's a fun tradition to get lost while exploring your surroundings in circles... but in case you'd like to make the most of your time, do the following :

- Get a city map.

When paired up, quick access maps and city maps work like wonder.
Great maps of Japan, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and all the major cities are available in the forms both booklets and foldable sheets. Though we recommend the first type over the second. Updated every year or so, they not only include all - and by this it really means all - landmarks, sights, building- , street- , district- , area- , hospital-, school-, and other facility names... but also serve as a city guide by themselves. A well visible icon and color system shows all shops, restaurants, theaters, parks, gardens, train and bus lines, their stops, shrines, temples, building and station entrances (!), exits, and all the information you would ever need. Surprisingly enough official maps are probably the most reliable and well detailed in the world. With quick access codes for keitai ( mobile-phone ) based navigating systems you have to be really clumsy to get lost. All downtown's are enlarged to an even higher detail in separate pages, and in case you wondered, major cities have their maps sold in a bilingual version, meaning you can see both the Japanese and the English ( or at least romanized ) names of places and transportation lines. Getting such a map shouldn't cost too much over a thousand yen and will prove to be an irreplaceable helper in case you don't have any mobile positioning systems on you. They're sold in every book, magazine and station store.

- Optionally, get a mobile navigation system with your phone ( most often dubbed as NAVI )

If you don't know where to get one, this compass is from Ameya Yokocho, Ueno
this one is from Ameya Yokocho, Ueno

Or just a keitai phone with access to one of the many navigation software like Raku Navi that will guide you through the city in real-time to any location you enter, locating where you are at the moment when checking the system. Yes, actually this is the ideal option but it's unlikely that people who are visiting Japan will go through the hassle of obtaining and learn the use of one. If you're up to this task you could turn to KDDI for example. The mobile phone provider has a broad lineup of phones that (can) have navi functionality with many special features such as EZ navi, and Safe Navi, a system that would alert another subscriber when the user enters or leaves a designated service area. DoCoMo offers i-mode with lots of navigation related features as well ( which include anything from weather forecasts to finding restaurants or regional traffic reports ).

- Get a compass.

No, not kidding. Get a compass. There are an awful lot of times when you won't see the sun while trying to navigate... better yet, when it's night the scenery in the cities will go through a change you have to experience to believe. With all the light transferring downtown's into a different world, you'll need to learn two sets of landmarks to guide you by... unless you know where that "up" on the map is on the street. Be warned that they will likely go crazy near train tracks...

Getting lost in the cities applies only to those who don't know the area, don't have a real map ( optionally with a compass ) or a mobile phone with them... are too afraid to ask someone, don't speak neither Japanese nor English... and are unconfident of their body language skills ( Japanese are quite confident, you can rely on them with this ). The rest should rest assured... they won't get lost... perhaps take bigger circles but will always know where they are.

Japan Guide

- Japan Visa, border entry, what to bring and be prepared with
- Japanese maps, Navi mobile navigation, easy orientation for travelers
- Convenience stores, the resupply stations that sell everything
- Japanese Vending machines, for drinks, tickets, cigarettes and more
- Japanese Food, and all kinds of food in Japan, restaurants, fast food, cheap food...

Tokyo guide

- Tokyo - as we see it - introduction
- Budget Tokyo apartment rental, accommodation, let go of the concern
- Tokyo Prices, the real cost vs. western legends, how to make most of your budget
- Cheap Tokyo Stores, bargain tips, where to find what, fashion to electronics
- Tokyo Cafe life, a guide to Cafes serving as meeting points, hangouts and life-savers
- Tokyo Parks and Gardens, well maintained icons of tranquility, tradition or having fun
- The Tokyo crowd... escaping from Tokyo to Tokyo, evading downtown rushhours

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