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Books on Japan

Japan

Japan is both an adventure and an education. Opened to the West only 100 years ago, Japan is a country where thousands of years of entrenched ancient ritual blend with pop culture and new technology.

Japan is where every scrap of available space is put to good use, and yet there are still areas of extraordinary and dramatic natural beauty. Modern invention is rarely allowed to replace agricultural and old family customs.

Like its bullet trains - the "Shinkansen", Japan moves ever forward at high speed and yet retains for the curious visitor all the fascinations of a hidden and feudal past.

A beautifully presented site. I can't describe it better than it's opening lines..."Hi there! My name is Edoreki Gakushimaru, and I live in the city of Edo (you probably call my city "Tokyo" -- that's the modern name for Edo). I'd like to take you on a trip through my city, to see what it was like when it was still ruled by the Shogun, when samurai walked the streets, accompanied by beautiful women wearing silk kimono. There are lots of sights to see and plenty to learn about ancient Japan."

As the author proudly explains:
"For the Japanese, Edo has a romantic image that one could compare to the Italian's image of Renaissance Venice, the British image of Victorian London and the American image of the Wild West, all rolled into one. This website is designed to take you exploring in Edo. Hopefully it will offer not only some enjoyment, but also some insights into the source of traditional Japan".

The design of the site is excellent and visually superb. Added to this, it is a joy to navigate and everything is clearly explained and interestingly portrayed. If you have any interest at all in this fascinating country of contrasts, contradictions and paradoxes you will enjoy this marvellous insight into what makes Japan so "Japanese"

To begin your exploration of Edo, visit:
http://www.us-japan.org/edomatsu/
 
Kabuki for Everyone is an excellent introduction to an important aspect of Japanese culture. Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theater. It was founded early in the 17th century by Okuni, a shrine maiden who brought her unique and lively dance style to the dry river beds of the ancient capital of Kyoto, and over the next 300 years developed into a sophisticated, highly stylized form of theater. Here you will find the sights and sounds of Kabuki as well as a great deal of information.

The site explains that "though Kabuki survived government oppression during the Edo period, the loss of many young actors in World War II and censorship by occupation forces after the war, it faces its most difficult enemies in modern forms of entertainment like movies and television. Its position as a "traditional" form of theater often makes it seem stuffy, and people are not as familiar with the special peculiarities of Kabuki as they used to be. Still, popular actors continue to bring audiences into the theater and there has recently been a "Kabuki boom" centered around young people".

Many traditioal art forms around the world are dying as modern life leaves less time to appreciate what they have to offer. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and visit:
http://www.park.org/Japan/Kabuki/kabuki.html
 
According to a Japanese saying "the one who never climbs to Fuji is a fool and the one who does so more than once is twice the fool!".

Here is a description of the climb by Archana K. Singh which leaves you in no doubt as to the truth of the saying. The trip is formidable - "The only meal available in the hut was 'Kare' - Japanese version of beef curry with rice. The amount being served was too frugal to survive after hours of commuting and hiking" and "If we had to reach there at the time of sunrise (4:30) we'd have to start at least before around midnight, which meant less than 3 hours of sleep" added to which "The beds in the huts have to be shared in the season. It is also probably the only way to keep the dormitory warm as there is no heating available and temperatures reach subzero in the night" but it's all worth it in the end.

Several other japanese experiences are described on this site which can be found at:
http://members.rediff.com/archanasin/fuj-san.htm
 
The Japan National Tourist Organisation presents this In Depth Guide to the Regions of Japan. It is a very comprehensive and detailed site that provides all the information the traveller needs to plan an itinerary and enjoy a trouble free trip. The descriptions of the attractions of each location are excellent and illustrated with good photographs

There is a huge variety of architecture, landscapes and cultural activities available to the tourist in Japan and this site is probably the most convenient way of sifting through them and planning a worthwhile visit.

This site can be found at:
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/featuredarticles/index.html
 
The Japanese Garden is a unique blend of philosophy, aesthetics and nature. For me, the tranquility of a Japanese garden is one of the real joys of existence and this site is a real gem, making available in pictorial form a wide range of different gardens. The link given below starts you off in one of my favourites, but site navigation is excellent and you will be able to explore for yourself all the wonders of this beautiful art form.

A place to stop and rest in your restless browsing through the frantic maze of information known as the Web:
http://www.jgarden.org/gardens.asp?TAB=photos&ID=88
 
The game of GO is still not well known in the West, although its popularity is growing. However it has long been part of Japanese culture and is widely portrayed in the arts. The game itself, for those who don't know it, is a board game of strategy amazingly simple to learn and amazingly difficult to master If you are interested in learning more about the game see my personal GO pages. However, even if you have no ineterest in the game, there is a marvellous collection of Japanese art which includes the game in its subject matter. The International GO Server hosts a unique gallery of these images and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese art and culture. The gallery can be found at:
http://www.pandanet.co.jp/English/gallery.html
 
Of the many travel books covering Japan, we would recommend thoroughly these two which are available from Amazon Books:
 
Hotel accommodation in Japan can be expensive unless you use a reputable agent who can secure you substantial discounts.
HotelClub can usually find you a good deal and you can check their availability here:

Specials in JAPAN:

 

 
Far East Air Fare deals
There are some excellent prices to be found on flights to Japan. For flights originating anywhere in the world use this link


 
Links to other information on The Web


East Asia in Focus
Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional This document was last updated 29 January 2010
2010 Graham G Hawker