This book was written because Leslee and I share an enjoyment of the kind of travel that travel writer extraordinaire and television personality Rick Steves has trumpeted. That is, be willing to learn in advance about the places you plan to visit, embrace the culture of the country, create your own tour, don’t overspend where it’s not needed, and do spend where there is the greatest return. Over the years, we’ve applied those lessons to one of our favorite countries, Japan. If this book helps you to cross a culture bridge and to get excited about Japan, we will have succeeded.
We don’t pretend to have the kind of experience or knowledge that is required to create an in-depth guidebook, but felt that there was a void in the market for a guidance book that prepares the uninitiated for the culture, the affordability, and most importantly, the people of Japan. Whether or not you decide to venture off on your own, hire guides or take a tour, we hope that this book will have made you a more informed and involved traveler. If you are just going to be a passive traveler, and watch exotic places through the window of a bus or van while a guide repeats a scripted monolog, you will be missing out on a lot of fun, cultural enrichment, and excitement.
So, even if you do take a group tour, be a more active and involved traveler. Do some advance studying and consider adding on some days to be on your own (or reconsider and do everything on your own!). If you learn the basics and follow the advice laid out in this book, you will get much More Japan—and for Less cost than you might have imagined. And you just might shock your guide with really insightful questions!
We also want to make sure that you don’t miss out on the experience of being in Japan. What does that mean? It means that you need to be able to slow down enough to appreciate the small things, as much as the big-name tourist attractions you may be rushing to.
You will learn about Japan and a little about its history before your trip. And you’ll be prepared to be more observant when you are in the country by using all of your senses. It’s essential to keep an open mind while you are soaking up the experience. It is our experience that business travelers are probably the worst at doing this. There are business people who have been to Japan dozens of times and have experienced only mandatory meetings, upscale restaurants, Western-style hotels and perhaps a quick tour around Tokyo. So, despite having had many visits to Japan, they have not truly experienced Japan. Tourists, particularly those who spend only a few days in Japan on a whirlwind all-Asia tour are also at risk. Their time is so structured and limited that they lack the opportunity to experience and appreciate what Japan truly has to offer.
If you read through this book, you will have taken a big step in being prepared for your journey. It should get you charged up about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and experiences awaiting you in Japan. Step 2? Find a detailed, current guidebook (check the copyright date) that you like, check out some of the websites in the reference section and put the wheels in motion.
We’d love to hear your comments on this book, positive or negative, and on your trip as well!