During many stays in Japan, I
collected a few Japanese references that may be of interest to
those intending to go there. This is a very interesting
country and you would really enjoy yourself if you took time
to understand some of their rich culture. I include them
here for your review:
Rail & Road Atlas by Atsushi
This is a must to assist in traveling around the greater Tokyo
area on trains and subways. It includes both Kanji and
English titles which really helps when you need assistance
from a Japanese with limited English skills.
Unfortunately, many booksellers still are carrying the older
book(1993); I ran
into some station name changes on the tiny Tamagawa line (only
five stops). Seems like the locals didn't like a name
that said 'in front of a cemetery'. This is worth it for the train maps
alone - I have researched everywhere for another train map and
have not found a better one - be sure and get the book
published in 2002.
Travel Guide to Japan by John
The DK Guides are great travel helps with fantastic pictures
and local maps to get you around. Not the best if you
are traveling on a budget (suggest Lonely Planet Guides).
Food Japan by (Lonely Planet World
Food Guides) by John
Spending anytime in Japan requires some assistance on the
various culinary delights of this wonderful country - the best
part about Japan in my mind - and travel guides cannot do
justice with this country because of the many different
foods/drinks. I took this guide with me often to study
the various foods/drinks. Also contains some useful
phrases to use in restaurants.
Talking About Japan by Kodansha
A bilingual book (Japanese and English) that answers hundreds
of interesting questions about Japan - a quick read and sorted
by categories so it would make a good reference book.
What is the average size of Japanese Homes? (1356sq.Ft. or 126 sq. m).
How much does it cost to rent an apartment in a convenient
location in Tokyo? (Studio or one-bedroom rents for
60,000Yen or $509US per month. Unfortunately, it is a
bit difficult to order; If you are in Japan, you can order the
book from the Japanese website
but you cannot, unfortunately, order the
book online from this website or any
other website serving the United States. However, I believe that you can order
the book from www.amazon.co.jp
(which I believe ships internationally from Japan). Go to http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4770025688
and click on "Display in English"
in the upper right-hand corner. Then click on "Add to
Shopping Cart," and you should be able to
then order the book using an English order
This was a prized gift from a friend of mine; Sato-san
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Books on Japan:
of a Geisha by Arthur
This is a must read if you plan on visiting Kyoto (should be
top on your list of places to visit in Japan). It is the
story of a young girl with stunning gray eyes who is sold into
a house where Geisha girls are 'developed'. It is
written in such a style and insight that many are real
surprised that it was written by an American man. It was
great going down the side alleys of Kyoto (the Gion or
teahouse district) and imagining what the interiors of the
exclusive tearooms must be like hidden behind a non-descript
old building. I would love to get invited to one ...
what an experience that would be!
A Modern History by James
Current book - published in 2001. The only readable book
on Japanese History that has a significant part dedicated to
modern Japan - must read for doing business in Japan. A
gift from my brother-in-law, James - beats the purple socks he
used to get me for Christmas!
Parole: Author: Akira Yoshimura
Famous Japanese author writes about a prisoner who is released
from prison after 16 years. It is interesting as Kikituni
tries to find freedom in everyday life (in Japan). A dark
story but maybe you will have compassion for any released
prisoner after reading this. The surprise ending may end that
Shipwrecks: Author: Akira Yoshimura
Japanese author writes about a village who lights fires during
storms to attract lost ships who then wreck upon their rocky
Another dark story with a surprising
ending by this author. Needless to say, everything you
get in a wreck is not good.
must try tsukemono (Japanese
pickles) while in Japan, it
has great flavor and is really unique. The Japanese told
me that most Americans do not like it but this American really
did! Pickling in Japan uses a variety of bases, the
primary ones being salt, rice bran, miso (fermented bean
paste), sake lees, malt and mustard. Of course, all kinds of
vegetables are used, so the variety is practically endless.
Almost all pickling, however, begins by placing a vegetable in
salt, removing some of its water, then promoting a slow
process of fermentation that uses lactic bacteria to bring out
a flavor unique to that vegetable. A friend of mine,
Hashimoto-san, gave me a bottle of solution to marinate
vegetables in to achieve a close imitation of Japanese Pickles
- you usually can find these at a Japanese Market in larger
cities in the states.
must try also try TONKATSU
(PORK CUTLET) while in Japan.
One of Japan's most popular, and least expensive, foods
is--oddly--pork. The pork, always fresh, always loin or
sirloin, is cut into fillets and salted and peppered. It is
then dredgepork cutleted into beaten egg yolk, and pressed
into bread crumbs. A minimum
of three inches of fresh oil is used, and the meat is immersed
for from five to eight minutes or until the covering is
precisely the right shade of golden brown. It is then removed
from the oil, drained, and cut up into chopstick-sized pieces.
It often comes as a set. Included is a soup, either tonjiru, a
miso (bean paste) soup with pork bits and vegetables, or
Japanese miso shiru; Japanese pickles; white rice; and
sometimes fruit. It is served atop a generous helping of
cut-up cabbage which my friend Hashimoto-san teased me for not
eating - uck! And, of course, the sauce. Even if the
chef will willingly show you how he prepares the meat, he will
never tell you what goes into the sauce. This is because it is
a secret, and every tonkatsu house of any standing has its own
recipe. Generally, it is made of soy sauce, sake, mustard,
Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes ketchup, but the
proportions are never divulged. This results in two styles: a
heavy sauce which is rather sweet and a lighter sauce which is
rather piquant. The Best Restaurant in Tokyo for
tonkatsu is Maisen in Jingumae, Shibuya-ku,
Tokyo. The Japanese website is: http://members.aol.com/maisenpr/index.html
You will need help in finding this restaurant!
This is a beverage made not from tea leaves but from soaking konbu
(seaweed kelp) in hot water. Often konbucha is brewed
and reconstituted into a powder which can be mixed with hot
water. Sometimes it is flavored with shiso leaves. It
has a rather salty taste and is considered to be healthful.
Another gift from Hashimoto-san - I enjoy it at night -
probably the strangest tea that an American would ever taste.
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Requiem and Golden Best: Yuichi
Very Beautiful music by a very
popular Japanese musician. This one is expensive, Blue Requiem
is the only title available on Amazon and it is $40US!
You will like this music - I paid about $30US in Tokyo. I received the Golden Best CD
as a gift from two great people I got to work with; Katsuura-san
and Kondo-san - domo for expanding my appreciation of Japanese
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Translator Personal: A great little translator
that can help you out on short segments of Japanese that you
want to translate but don't want to bother the local Japanese
working with you. I used it to decide which sections of
a contract were the important areas and then used the Japanese
to assist me further. Uses your clipboard to translate
anything you copy - a paste into a word processor gives you
the English translation. Yes, it will leave lots of
words out but you should be able to understand enough to
review it. At 29$US, a good deal. They also have
other heavy duty translators at this site and a fee-based
service that allows users to submit files for translation.
PDA Conversion Software: I used 1-2-Convert for both
currency and every other measure known to man - simple and
works great. Large keyboard allows use of fingers to
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Go to Mary's Photoalbum page
for pictures inside one of the nicest Ryokan's in Japan.
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Great walking tours of Kyoto - these are superb and very easy
to follow with really detailed directions. Here is an extract;
Past Kodai-ji Temple and just before the street ends at a
pagoda with a crane on top, keep your eyes peeled for a
teahouse on your right with a garden, which you can glimpse
from the street through a gate. The Kodaiji Rakusho Tea Room,
516 Washiochiyo (tel. 075/561-6892), is a lovely place and one
of my favorite tearooms in Kyoto. It has a 100-year-old
miniature garden with a pond that's home to some of the
largest and most colorful carp I've ever seen, some of which
are 20 years old and winners of the many medals displayed in
the back room. In summer, stop for somen (finely spun cold
noodles), tea, or traditional desserts, and refresh yourself
with views of the small but beautiful garden from one of the
tables or from the back tatami room.
Rolex replicas: Most can be located at night on
sidewalk stands in Shibuya just a few blocks from the train
station. Note that the
good Rolex replicas actually have Seiko movements (the ones
assembled in Japan). Most of the stands have a Rolex
catalog if you want to order a special model. A good
replica will cost you about 170$US - they are not cheap.
Japan Times: Great English printed newspaper to keep
up on Japanese news. Has a very interesting section
called 'Life in Japan' that is a must read to really
understand the nuances of Japanese culture - also a great
source of everything an English speaking expatriate might need
while living abroad (translate; advertisements). I would
suggest you get this delivered daily at your apartment/hotel.
Residence Aoyama: The Apartment where I stayed while
in Japan - they also have a few other scattered around
Japan. Very nice rooms with a very helpful staff that
can assist you in finding everything while in Japan.
Bill Murray and his family stayed here while filming Lost in
Translation - a really poor movie on Japan but Mary and I
enjoyed watching it to see familiar sites in and around Tokyo.
Great place to get any countries calendar and prints out on
8X11 paper with the holidays clearly marked. Did you
know in Japan that they have a holiday for the aged? - 15 Sep:
Keirou no hi (Respect for the Aged Day.
The best source of over a hundred books written in English
(some bilingual) on Japanese subjects. Many of these can
be bought in Japan or at www.amazon.com.
Kodansha International Ltd.
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8652
Tel: (03) 3944-6492
Fax: (03) 3944-6323
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