So you’ve bought my Planning For Japan guide book and booked your flights. Now what? Here’s how I’ve been using the guide to organise my own itinerary.
The first thing to do is read the guide in full and mark all the places you’re interested in. You can highlight entries in a PDF reader or print the whole thing out and use a pen.
Start a new blank document for your notes (I like Google Docs, as you can access it online from all your devices) and a new Google Map (click on the menu (three lines) and choose My Places, then Maps and then Create Map). Now you’re ready to add places.
Copy each place from the guide into your document using my descriptions and the web link to find the branch location/s. If you already know which areas/cities you’re visiting, you can create a new page for each; otherwise you can do that later. Add notes for yourself, like directions (eg, nearest station and exit), entry fees and opening days and times. If you can’t find the information on their own website, Japan Guide is amazing for museums, galleries and sights, while Time Out Tokyo lists most shops and restaurants.
You can see one of my pages above, for my overnight stay in Hiroshima. It’s mostly taken up with 3 main visits (Kobe Ropeway, Peace Park & Museum and Miyajima) that I have made some notes for (and have more in my guidebook). I’ve also listed a few things that are on my map if I find myself nearby or have to change my plans.
Add each place to your map as you go. Hopefully it will turn up straight away on a search, but for some trickier places, you may need to try a few search terms, look up the address on their website or find the name in kanji. For chain restaurants, add all the branches that are near any area you might visit, so you’ll be able to check the map if you’re hungry. You can edit the title of each marker to make the name clearer, and also add notes. If you’re especially organised, you can even colour code your markers.
Whenever you add something, zoom right in to see what’s around there so you can mark any other interesting places you might spot. This is especially good to do around your hotel as it will save you stumbling around when you arrive desperate for some Pocky or a coffee. It’s good to see my Nagoya hotel has three konbini and a Donki within a couple of blocks, plus tons of restaurants.
Eventually, you should end up with a map full of pins showing all your places to go. Don’t forget to add places from your other guidebooks and web research too. Hopefully they’ll be bunched together and you can work out easy itineraries to get around them all. Some things will be out of town and will need a special train journey, so check what lines the station is on and whether they connect to another area you’ll be visiting.
You can import your Google Maps places into Maps.me to use offline. It’s a bit convoluted, but follow this guide. Once you have a KML file, email it to yourself and click on the file to import into Maps.me.
Remember to print a hard copy of your document to take with you, plus you can also print sections of your map straight from Google Maps. Just zoom in to to a good level of detail, centre everything on the screen and click the 3 dots by the map name to print to either a PDF or image.
Let me know how you get on!