Books I recommend about Japan
Atlases If you want to make the most of your time in Japan, it is essential to have some good maps to find your way around, (or find your way back after you've been around - and around.) I recommend having all three of these, as they all have different areas and detail of coverage. The initial investment will be well worth their cost in time and your enjoyment of Japan. Each will cost about a meal at a medium price restaurant. ($20 more or less)

The Tokyo City Atlas, a Bilingual Guide published by Kodansha International. September 1999. It is the most detailed atlas of downtown and includes from about Shinjuku to Tokyo Station (ie: mostly the area enclosed within the Yamonote line.) It has amazing details of the areas it covers. It labels most of the stores, postoffices, museums, government buildings, and other public buildings. It also includes a subway map and JR and private railroad maps. We almost always have it with us when we go downtown. It doesn't look like you can buy it online, but Barnes & Nobles has a picture of it here. (It's listed as not in stock) We got ours on second floor of Jena bookstore in Ginza. It is also available at other English bookstores in Japan.
The second is the Tokyo Metropolitan Atlas published by Shobunsha. It includes a much broader area around Tokyo. It includes all the way out past Fussa through Ome, including Lake Okatama, Tama Hills, etc, but in less detailed. It also includes subway maps & JR & private railroad maps. I couldn't find it online. It is the one we use driving around near base, etc. We also got this one at Jena's.
The third is Road Atlas Japan, published by Shobunsha. It is a general atlas of all of Japan. Useful for longer road trips. We do not use it for around town. I couldn't find it online. We got ours at the Yokota BX.
Travel Books: Having an atlas to get someplace isn't any fun if you don't know where you should go. Despite the plentiful resources online, none of them can replace the good old standard travel guide. If you are in Japan, to live or just for a short visit, you should own one. -Unless maybe you are visiting someone who owns one- There are lot's of them out there. My wife and I own Frommer's Japan, although we've checked out other's from the library, including Frommer's Tokyo and Lonely Planet Tokyo. Look at your favorite online bookstore or any of the below mentioned english bookstore - they all should have one or more.
Language Books:
Until you know Japanese (I still don't), I recommend having at least a pocket dictionary and/or a phrase book to help out when you are in a bind. My wife and I have and enjoy both Japanese at a Glance, a phrase book by Barron's, and Random House's pocket Japanese-English English Japanese Dictionary. Both widely available, and there are also a number of other options out there.

Kodansha's Pocket Kanji Guide (A Kodansha Dictionary) by Taro Hirowatari (Editor) Available at If you ever wanted to learn to read kanji, or even just understand a few of the signs you see out there, there are a fair number of good books around to help you get started and learn the basics (I'll try to get the names of a few of them up here in a while, check back latter.) Once you have mastered the basics, you will want to start looking them up ones you see out there in real life. To do this you'll need a Kanji dictionary. Kodansha's Pocket Kanji Guide is a good beginners dictionary for a number of reasons. For a pocket dictionary it is a very nice compromise between size and content. It is small (31.6 cubic inches vs 59.7 cubic inches for the larger Kodansha's Compact Kanji Guide) so you can carry it with you (important for looking up that one you don't recognize while it's on your mind). Despite it's size it contains almost all the kanji and a great number of the compounds I run into while getting around Japan. It contains only the 1006 Shinkyoiku Kanji, which it claims covers 90% of the Kanji in the daily newspaper, and I've had a MUCH higher success rate than that reading signs around Tokyo - which is where I primarily use this dictionary. I've looked at a fair number of "pocket" kanji dictionaries at bookstores here in Japan and choose this one. Pro's:1) Good number of nice practical compounds, esp. considering size. 2) VERY Nice radical index at end for scanning kanji which contain a given radical - including kanji where radical is not the primary radical. 3) ON/KUN reading index 4) Complete Stroke Count index --VERY NICE for those kanji with hard-to-find radicals. 5) Despite all these pro's, it's very reasonably priced, much less than many kanji dictionaries out there. Con's: 1) Uses the historical radicals (like Nelson's dictionary) - some people might find this a pro, but my personal preference is for Spahn's radicals. 2) The readings are not in romanji - I overcame this by sticking a Hiragana/Katakana chart in as a bookmark. -- Once again you might consider this a pro - in that it is forcing me to practice Hiragana & Katakana. In carry with you as you travel, this is the one I recommend. If you want a complete Kanji dictionary, I recommend Mark Spahn's Kanji Dictionary. Both are available online. (I found both on Amazon.)
Mark Spahn's Kanji Dictionary by Mark Spahn (Contributor). Available at A complete kanji dictionary that has a method of looking up Kanji that I find more intuitive than Nelson's. Has compounds listed under each of the kanji involved in the compound, as opposed to Nelson's method in which compounds are listed under only the first kanji involved. This is for the person more serious about learning/looking up kanji. It's completeness comes at a price - it's fairly expensive relative to most of the books mentioned on this page. (It will cost you about $60.00 more or less.) (If you get it you MUST read the beginning of the book describing how to look up kanji.)

English Bookstores in Japan
  • Orion Books Tachikawa: The closest decently stocked English bookstore to Yokota is just outside the Tachikawa train station. - You can get the above mentioned maps there. To get there, take the train to the Tachikawa exit. Exit the gate and turn towards Lumine to exit the station on the elevated walk way under the two arches. Turn left, and walk on the elevated walk-way towards the elevated monorail. When you get underneath the monorail tracks, turn right and follow it until you see the BMG Music Store on the left. Enter the BMG music building, go straight up the escalator on floor into the book store. The English books will be along the wall to the right of the top of the escalators. (I think it's section G33)
  • Shinjuku:Kinokuniya Book Stores: The two biggest Engilsh bookstores in Tokyo are located a short walk from the Shinjuku Station. You can find maps of them at the Shinjuku's Photo Map page (labeled B3 in lower right side, and Bi upper right) and at the NTT's English Map of Shinjuku (one store is in D2, the other in D4.) If I remember correctly, the English books are located on the 6th or 7th floor of both of them.
  • Jena Book Store:
    Unfortunately, after about 50 years of serving Japan, Jena foreign books closed January 2002.

    This kanji is seen outside of many Japanese book stores.
    To ask someone where a bookstore is, you can try asking "hon ya doko des ka?" (the "on" in "hon" is pronounced like the "one" in "bone") Someone might point you in the right direction.

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    Last updated 7 Aug 2001 Copywrited, Brian Marriott, 2000
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