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Travel Book Best of Japan 2017 (Lonely Planet)

Pros
  • Concise and up-to-date (issued biennially)
  • Also available as e-book
  • Sturdy, light and small enough to carry around
This is a more condensed version of Lonely Planet's regular Japan Guide. Apart from the (as usual) excellent survival guide for first-time visitors and the general introduction to Japan (history, people, food & drink, arts & architecture, onsen & ryokan), it introduces Japan's Top 12, locations that LP deems essential to visit and provides ample information on things you need to consider when planning your itinerary.

The Top 12 are:
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Japanese Alps
  • Nara
  • Kii Peninsula
  • Naoshima
  • Hiroshima
  • Fuji Five lakes
  • Osaka
  • Hokkaido
  • Okinawa
  • Kagoshima
The authors suggest

Five-Day Itineraries:
  • "Kansai in Depth" (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kii Peninsula)
  • Tokyo and Mount Fuji

a Ten-Day Itininerary called the "Grand Tour" from Tokyo to Hiroshima and

a Two-Week Itinerary that includes all of the above, plus the Japanese Alps and Okinawa.

If you are travelling with children, the guide offers plenty of useful suggestions on how to satisfy the kids in case temples, shrines and museums start to bore them. And where to go to dine with the kinsfolk.

Each location is well laid out with short descriptions of places, sights and restaurants as well as easy-to-read foldable maps.

I am not sure whether it's really possible to complete LP's ten-day and two-week itineraries but the Best of Japan should help you plan your next trip to Japan, in particular, if you intend to visit the main island (Honshu). Other locations, such as Hokkaido, Kyushu and Okinawa would require you to fly: consider a second visit if you want to see those destinations.
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