Now that I’ve shared with you The Little Book of Tokyo and The Little Book of Kyoto, it’s time to explore further afield and today’s review is on The Little Book of Japan! Having spent a while living in Japan and having travelled to all of the four main islands and everywhere between, I can say that this book covers a great distance and hits most of the major stops that any tourist will see.
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent us a copy of The Little Book of Japan, by Charlotte Anderson and photographs by Gorazd Vilhar, to review. It’s like your own little journey through Japan in 192 pages and 433 photographs! Be wowed by the photographs and and perhaps even plan a future trip to Japan based on the pics (I have done this more than once while living there – see a beautiful photo and then found I ‘must go’ there)!
The Little Book of Japan is sorted into 4 Chapters:
- Cultural Icons
- Spiritual Life
All four of the main islands of Japan are in this book, as well as Okinawa. As well, all 4 seasons are covered. The main bulk of the locations are between Tokyo and Hiroshima, which is where the majority of the tourist spots are located. However, seeing as my Japanese ‘hometown’ was Toyama, it would have been awesome to have seen the Hokuriku area mentioned – Kanazawa is steeped in history and beauty, and the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is very cool. However…that does mean that there’s lots of scope for another book in the future to explore some of the less popular beauty spots!
Let’s take a closer look at the wonders enclosed in this Little Book of Japan.
The first quarter of this book covers the major cultural icons of Japan. No doubt you’ve at least heard about these, and if you haven’t now’s your time to get acquainted with Mt. Fuji, Castles, and the beautiful gardens of the country (many, many hours can be lost wandering around them and appreciating their beauty – I always made sure to include at least one in my travel itineraries). If city life is more your cup of tea (tea, of course, is also included), then you’ll be drawn to geishas, Otaku culture, trains, or perhaps the somewhat underground culture of tattoos.
If there’s one thing that you notice about Japan when you live there, it’s traditions! Japan is steeped in rich and beautiful traditions; so much so that they’ve become a part of the fabric of Japanese living whether you realise it or not. Whether it’s taking a trip to a beautiful garden to observe the autumn foliage displays, or bringing nature indoors with Ikebana (flower arranging), you’ll notice it. You’re likely already familiar with kimono, bento boxes, rice, and perhaps even onsen. But did you know about the significance of curtains, footwear, calligraphy, and ryokan? It’s fabulous! (I’ve been observing the work involved in a traditional Japanese house in Gokoyama that my colleague’s family owns. Check out their Facebook page and watch how they clear snow, change the paper on the windows, and much more!)
Find a tradition that interests you, and then check out Tuttle Publishing’s other books to learn more about it! Many Japanese people spend decades going deeper into tradition and attempting to perfect their preferred art; what will your favourite be?
Oh, the many fascinating places of Japan! A full month of travel would hardly touch the surface! But of course, you can do a great amount of travelling even within a week (as this was the longest length of my vacations; I know if you plan right, you can see a LOT). If you have a short period of time, you may want to move around a lot, but if you have more time, or plan to return to Japan, enjoying the country by area is a great thing to do.
Like any country, there’s always a lot going on in the big cities, and Tokyo (both old and new), Yokohama, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka have many things to see and activities to immerse yourself in! Old traditions, new technology, fashion, gardens, nautical interests, and war museums can all be easily accessed. View the world from the top of a sky scraper, or through the windows of an aquarium!
If slightly smaller locations are more your style, you’ll learn about Kamakura and Nikko (both great day trips from Tokyo), Nara (a brief train ride from Kyoto), Hakone, Okinawa, and the northern-most island of Hokkaido, which is where the Sapporo Snow Festival takes place each February (my first overnight trip in Japan was to this festival).
Certainly, there are so many photographs in this book that take me back to my time in Japan! I never regretted the travelling I did, I only regret not having had more time to travel! Indeed, many people teaching English in Japan travel to the surrounding countries during vacations, but I only spent 4 days outside Japan as I wanted to experience as much as I could while I was there! There’s soooo much there, considering the small size of the country!
Spiritual life is much different in Japan than in Western societies; it’s possible and even common, to believe in more than one religion. I love the respect and harmony that is in Japan in this regard. Various aspects of spiritual life can be seen in festivals, sporting events (think Sumo), and there are even special amulets that you purchase at temples to help you with your studies or travels (I have one that goes with me on long journeys).
Some of the other areas that were photographed for The Little Book of Japan are Buddhism, Japanese New Year, O-Bon Festival, Pilgrimages, Shinto, and Life Cycle Ceremonies, such as Shichi-Go-San. I attended many festivals in Japan, both on my own and with Japanese friends, but I learned more about them through the text in this book. Next time I make it there (and I WILL), I’ll know a little more and get a deeper experience!
Great uses for the Little Book of Japan
- bring back memories of a past trip
- research for an upcoming holiday
- enjoy the beauty of the photography
- learn about the culture of Japan
- learn little nuggets of culture and history and pique your interest for further study
- mark the locations on a map of Japan and use it for a home ed geography lesson
Japan is still one of my dream destinations to take my family to visit and relive so many great memories, as well as to make new ones! You really can’t describe how it is in reality, but having gorgeous photographs and informative descriptions with background information does make a good substitute until such time as I can return.
If you’d like to purchase The Little Book of Kyoto, you can find it here: