Best travel reads on Japan

Best Travel ReadsSo, which books are they? Here are three classic books I’d recommend if you’re planning on traveling in and around Japan.

The Inland Sea, by Donald Richie(Originally published in 1971, re-released in 2002 by Stonebridge Press).

American Donald Richie, is a prominent Japanese film critic and a long-time book and film reviewer for The Japan Times. He has published over 40 books on Japan. During the 60’s, traveled by ferry to various islands in the Seto Inland Sea and wrote about his experiences. An eloquent writer, his book captures scenes of island life in the Seto Inland Sea in the 1960’s.

The Roads to Sata—A 2,000 mile walk through Japan,Alan Booth, (Weatherhill, 1986)

Alan Booth, who passed away in 1992, walked the length of Japan from northern Hokkaido to Sata, the southernmost part of Kyushu in 1985. He wrote about the villages and the people he met from the perspective of a British foreigner in Japan. Booth wrote a sequel to this called Looking for the Lost: Journeys through a vanishing Japan (Kodansha Globe, 1997).

Lost Japan, Alex Kerr (Lonely Planet Journeys 1996)

American Alex Kerr bought an old traditional Japanese house in the countryside of Shikoku and through the process of fixing it up tells stories about the local Japanese people in the Shikoku area. Part memoir and part his own struggle to understand the country and culture, Kerr’s knowledge of Japan deepens along with his own interests in Japanese art, antiques and kabuki. In this book, which covers a 30-year period, he also talks about how Japan is slowly destroying itself environmentally. This theme he further expands upon in his latest book Dogs and Demons.

Dogs and Demons has been widely read by lovers of Lost Japan, but many readers have complained about his negative attitude in this second book. Dogs and Demons is what I call Kerr’s “angry book” about Japan. He definitely has a few bones to pick. Perhaps that’s why he eventually moved to Thailand.

Amy Chavez is a columnist for The Japan Times. Visit her website at