Traveling to Japan? Read the Japan Traveler's Companion

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Whether you've been to Japan and love it, or can't wait to go, I've got a book for you. Japan Traveler's Companion: Japan's Most Famous Sights from Okinawa to Hokkaido, by Rob Goss, is a treasure.

It's a beautiful book, perfect for dreaming and remembering.

Goss, who wrote another book we love (Japanese Inns and Hot Springs: A Guide to Japan's Best Ryokan and Onsen), has a knack for finding the best of an area, and sharing it. His writing is clear, intriguing, and inspiring. 

Traveling to Japan? Read the Japan Traveler's Companion

Here's what I love about the Japan Traveler's Companion:

* A guide to Japan's juxtaposition of modernity and tradition

* The best of high tech and quirky Japan

* A focus on foods (yay!)

* A festival guide

* Complete introductions to each of Japan's geographical areas - with maps, descriptions, and photos

* Excellent suggestions from someone who lives there 

This is the perfect book for anyone who loves Japan - or who wants to learn more. It's beautiful, intriguing, and captures the essence of Japan. Highly recommended!

We were lucky enough to catch up with Goss, and ask him about the book, inspiration, travel tips, and more. Here's what he had to say:

Author Rob Goss - read our interview with him, in Traveling to Japan? Read the Japan Traveler's Companion

Please tell us about your book, Japan Traveler's Companion...
The book has many chapters, but is basically in two parts. The first examines aspects of Japan like its cuisine, festivals and pop culture, while the second focuses on different areas, spanning the entire country and looking at the varied sites, traits and traditions that define major destinations like Tokyo and Kyoto, but also lesser-visited areas such as Tohoku, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami but is hoping tourism can play a major role in its recovery.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve written a few traditionally structured guidebooks to Japan, but with this I wanted to do something a little different; giving people ideas for where they could go and foregoing page after page of hotel and restaurant listings to instead look at the colour and characteristics of each area. You could use the book as a primer on Japan, take it with you on a trip or (because it’s full of photos) have it as a keepsake.

Traveling to Japan? Read the Japan Traveler's Companion

How did you narrow down what to include in this guide?
It was a case of trying to get a balance between including the main places people go, so they can use the book to read up or have it as a pictorial souvenir, while also trying to introduce some of the better places that are off most traveler’s radars. Looking at it overall, the aim was to show the diversity of experiences and sights Japan has, and hopefully give people an understanding of Japanese culture, too.

What are your best travel tips for visiting Japan?
I’m not sure if this is the best, but I was recently on a six-day work trip around central Japan where I (stupidly) wore big lace-up boots, which proved to be rather annoying as you have to remove your shoes at so many places in Japan, whether that’s entering shrine and temple halls, at your inn or even in restaurants. So, slip-on shoes can be good. Outside of the cities, credit cards are still often not accepted, so having ample cash with you is also handy (and it’s safe to carry it). 

What was the most unique experience you had, while researching this guide?
Staying at a Buddhist temple on Mount Koya was quite special, especially getting to join the monks for their morning rituals. The great thing is that anyone who travels there can do that. But there are so many amazing experiences to have traveling in Japan. It doesn’t matter if you are only in Tokyo for a couple of days or you can backpack the country for a month - there’ll be something.

Traveling to Japan? Read the Japan Traveler's Companion

What's up next for you?
Book wise, I’ve just started on a project with my co-author on the Japanese Inns book about the traditional sides of Tokyo, as many guides focus on the more modern aspects of the city. After that, the plan is to retrace haiku master Matsuo Basho’s travels around Japan – although that will be a fairly long-term book project.

All photos courtesy and copyright Tuttle Publishing