If you’re planning a trip to Japan, here are some of the travel guides that I recommend picking up.
A Cheapo’s Guide to Tokyo (ebook)
This is a huge guide aimed at travellers looking to spend as little as possible. Unless you’re a backpacker passing through Tokyo on a longer trip, or just have a short stopover on a long flight, you won’t want to rely solely on this guide as most of us want to splurge at least occasionally on shopping, sightseeing and comfort. However, it does do the cheapo thing excellently and includes some great tips that every traveler can learn from. There’s loads of free and cheap sightseeing ideas and restaurants to grab a bargain bite, plus it’s all organised by area and subject and packed full of links so great for checking on the go. [Read my full review | Buy at Tokyo Cheapo]
Moshi Moshi Tokyo with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (print book)
If you love kawaii fashion and dream of going on a shopping date in Harajuku with Kyary then this is the guide for you. The majority of shops featured are fashion and accessories, but there’s also Zakka, Toy & Hobby and Culture, plus a huge amount of cafes and restaurants, all organised by area. There are also photo sections showing Kyary as a Japanese tour guide visiting various shops and attractions with her tips and thoughts. The text is all in Japanese, but there are images of the shop fronts and products they sell and many shop names are in English so you can google for more info. There’s also a free app, which includes the Harajuku section in English and French. [Read my full review | Buy at CD Japan]
Tokyo: Monocle Travel Guide (print book)
Pretty interesting guide though really only that useful if you’re going to Tokyo to look at architecture, drink fancy coffee and buy high-end clothes for men, plus getting taxis everywhere because ugh public transport is for peasants. There are some good tips for art and design and walks, and it’s saved by a section of short essays in the middle with odes to everything from Tokyo’s motorways to record shopping. [Buy at Amazon]
TOKYO: A very brief introduction (print zine)
If you don’t own any Herb Lester guides then you are really missing out! They’re little foldout maps with themed suggestions of interesting places to visit. There are loads of them and this Tokyo edition is a collaboration with The City Reporter. Tokyo is obviously massive so this guide has four walking tours, of Omotesando, Ginza, Sendagi and Shibuya, packed with cafes, shops and galleries to visit. There are also some travel tips, all illustrated with pen and watercolour. Definitely worth picking up if you have a trip planned, but so nice you should just get it anyway.
[Buy at Herb Lester Associates]
Thrifty Times #20 – The Tokyo Issue (print zine)
I wasn’t familiar with the Thrifty Times, but it’s a long-running zine all about thrifting with shop reviews, favourite finds, tips etc. This issue is all about thrifting in Tokyo, with a review of the Chicago Thrift Store in Harajuku, tips on buying secondhand yukata, book, music and game reviews, recipes and more! It’s a great mix of content and I wish I’d bought one of the bundles now! I’ve never done any secondhand shopping in Japan, but I’m definitely going to give it a go next time. [Buy at Etsy]
I also recommend buying one of the big name guidebooks as they have a lot of great general information, details on the main sights that you shouldn’t miss, plus things like what to do in emergencies. I prefer Lonely Planet, but it’s definitely worth popping into a bookshop and having a browse through the Japan section to see which you like best. [Buy at Amazon]
And don’t forget my own Tokyo Shopping Guide, Kawaii Japan book and Next Time in Japan zine. The Tokyo Shopping Guide is a great size for taking on the plane with you and is full of cute and crafty shops and other fun things to do. My Kawaii Japan book is less of a guide, but does include a detailed diary of my three trips so it’s good to get a feel for what visiting Japan is like, especially when you don’t speak the language. Next Time in Japan is a short illustrated zine with 7 things I want to do on my next trip. Digital editions are also available to add to your e-reader.