By Ruthy Kanagy
"Living Abroad in Japan" (2008) by Ruthy Kanagy, Bike Friday's Japan attache, is a compendium of information that will help you plan your adventure in Japan, whether you're staying for 5 days or 5 years. A brief overview of the history, language, people and culture is followed by practical tips on visas, transportation, communication, banking, health, and employment. Model trips of 1 week to one month are included, with recommendations on lodging and restaurants.
The core of the book describes five major regions of Japan in depth: Hokkaido, Tokyo, the Central Mountains, Kyoto and Osaka, and the Inland Sea (Hiroshima and Shikoku), plus northern Kyushu. Maps of each region and information on places to see and stay, getting around, and housing. The Resource chapter includes extensive contact information, a phrasebook, and suggested readings. Numerous photos by the author bring to life everyday scenes in Japan.
"Moon Living Abroad in Japan" (2008) is available from Bike Friday--email firstname.lastname@example.org to order. Read stories about cycling in Japan
From the book:
--When you first come to Japan, you may observe things that look like cultural contradictions, a clash of East and West. For example, while waiting on a train platform, you might see a woman in a traditional komono whip out her cell phone; or two businesspeople shaking hands and bowing at the same time; or a blonde Japanese with a Mohican hairdo. Newcomers to Japan often perceive such phenomena as contraditions, because they've never imagined these particular cultural elements in comfortable juxtaposition...
In my experience growing up in two cultures, it's no more incongruous for a kimono-clad woman to take out her keitai (cell phone) than for a Western man in a tuxedo to talk on one. Though we may regard modern accoutrements as belonging to the West, they are just as intrinsic a part of Japanese culture and daily life.
Which things are "western," and which are "Japanese"? For children growing up among all these resources, none of this seems foreign at all--just Japanese. After all, they've met Micky Mouse at Tokyo Disneyland, and he was Japanese. Contradictions only appear when viewed from the outside.
Though you may initially experience many unexpected or even curious events when you arrive in Japan, don't worry. Soon, eating curried rice with a soup spoon and ice cream with chopsticks (just kidding!) and bowing while talking on the phone will become second nature to you, too!--
Bike Friday Japan Attache Ruthy Kanagy's Living Abroad in Japan, 2nd edition 2008. You can hear Ruthy talking on Travel with Rick Steves, KUOW Seattle 94.9FM - scroll down to "Program 11: Japan & More USA Road Trips"