TripAdvisor of course, but also…

Trip Advisor's Japan Forum is a great place to search for tips and ask for advice: www.tripadvisor.com/ForumHome.  

If a TripAdvisor review is in Japanese, translate it with Google translate.  Another, more accurate option is the translate tool in Microsoft Word from 2007 edition up.  Shop staff use http://www.excite.co.jp/world/english/  for English translation to and from Japanese.  The centre buttons are to toggle between Eng/Jap and Jap/Eng, and you copy and paste into the left window then hit your button for the translation to appear in the right window. 

Most prefectures, cities, and towns have at least some information in English; so if you have a specific location in mind, do a Web search for that place and see what information they have to offer.  Some are better than others, but you will find some wonderful information in this way.  Remember that local websites in Japan end with co.jp and don’t forget to have East Asian languages enabled on your computer. 

The Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) has a lot of great information, including a listing of festivals and events: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

Know what the front of your Ryokan looks like before you get there with Google Streeetview http://maps.google.com.au/help/maps/s... , and browse your virtual globe and get a whole lot more local information after installing Google Earth http://earth.google.com/download-eart... 

Know where it is in relation to somewhere else.  Locate (English – romaji) addresses in Japan  http://www.diddlefinger.com/ 

Another very useful resource written by travellers, and getting bigger all the time, is WikiTravel… http://wikitravel.org/en/Japan

Get advice from expatriates living in Japan http://www.gaijinpot.com/

Get ideas about an active holiday at http://outdoorjapan.com/  See their onsen section. 

 

Accommodation

Once again, TripAdvisor accommodation reviews are invaluable when making the decision where to stay.  Nothing beats the impartiality of travellers themselves.  However, beware of serial complainers. 

JNTO is also a good place to visit, being updated and expanded all the time.  In addition, some locally-run websites with English language are worth a look because they have better coverage, and are likely to list lodgings in more obscure and out-of-the-way places.  For example… http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/en/

Others… http://www.toyoko-inn.com/eng/  http://www.ntainbound.com/  http://www.jyh.or.jp/english/index.html  http://www.japanaccommodation.net/ 

Want to stay longer, in self-contained accommodation? Try http://www.wmt.co.jp/en/  …or even longer? Do a home exchange.  For example… http://homeexchange.jp/index.php#

 

Transportation

The famous Japan Rail Pass must be bought before you arrive in Japan, and will commence on the day you choose to validate it at a station.  http://www.japanrailpass.net/

A good travel research site is Hyperdia: www.hyperdia.com. This site is an interactive rail timetable, but will also display air, bus and walk segments.  You'll need to click the English link in the top left (unless you read Japanese), and bear in mind: 1. If you're using a JR rail pass then choose 'except Nozomi'; Nozomi refers to the fastest Shinkansen (bullet train) and the JR rail pass only includes the second-fastest; the Hikari.  2. Time shown on the schedule is local time in Japan.  3. If you want a guaranteed seat, an extra seating charge is optionally shown.  4.  Everyone wants an undisturbed trip, but don’t be put off by “walk” segments displayed.  Many JR stations are right beside (or on top of) stations of private companies, so unless you have mobility problems it is a simple matter to transfer. 

If you are looking to travel Tokyo by the metro/train, the below site will be useful.  If you know your start and end point train station you wish to take, this will map out the most efficient (and cost effective) way to get to your destination.  The site is available in both Japanese and English: http://www.tokyo-subway.net/english/

Travel Guides - Country, Region or City

Certainly devour any Travel Guide for the region you are planning to visit. You will always find some nugget of useful information. The layout and content will vary with the publisher.

  •  Lonely Planet
  •  Rough Guides
  •  DK Eyewitness Travel
  •  Insight / Discovery Channel Travel
  •  AA Explorer, AA Key or AA Spiral

Culture Guides

Want to visit, join in, meet and greet new friends but not offend?  Unsure what side of your yukata should be on the outside? 

Culture Wise Japan – The Essential Guide to Culture, Customs and Business Etiquette.  Edited by David Leaper.  Website www.survivalbooks.net

Culture Smart Japan – The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture.  By Paul Norbury.  Website www.culturesmartguides.com

Travel Books - Children or Junior

Browse the children's or junior section of your local library for travel and geography guides. You will find a variety of guides to countries, regions or natural wonders of the world. The majority of these guides will be less than fifty pages in length. They will contain an excellent overview of a country etc. They are an excellent introduction for the young traveller.

Travel DVD or Audio/Video  

These are a few ideas for finding Travel DVD's in your local area.

  • Local Video Rental Store
  • Local Library - Travel Video or DVD
  • Any large music store will have a range of travel DVD's or Video's on sale.
  • Travel Video Store has an excellent internet site.
  • BBC Video series website section
  • Pilot Travel Guide series 
  • National  Geographic Travel DVD or Video Series
  • Escorted Tour Companies  DVD or Video's  e.g. Rick Steves' 

National Tourist Bureaus MAY have a introduction Video or DVD on offer  or Photo Gallery on their Internet site

Travel Pictorial - Country or Natural Wonder

Always browse any or all Travel Pictorial books about a country, region or a natural wonder of the world. You will find excellent photography to view at leisure. Check out any bookstore or library (lending or reference).