Japan Handbook, December 14, 1999
Reviewer: Heather (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Of the numerous reference guides I read previous to going to Japan, this is above and beyond the most comprehensive book I came across. J.D. Bisignani excels in providing in-depth and detailed accounts of all aspects of this country. One of the greatest strengths of this reference guide is its ability to provide an accurate perspective on the nation without getting trapped in the stereotypes of other travelling guides. The analyses of each prefecture (state or province) of Japan are remarkably rich in information, particularly cultural details. The author leads the reader off the beaten path of normal tourist attractions which many guides or websites put too much emphasis on. Rather, you explore tiny hamlets and isolated towns usually neglected by foreigners to savor the real Japanese experience. The time and effort J.D. Bisignani puts into pointing out particular buildings or sites of interest - even if they are as miniscule as a small roadside shrine or quaint teahouse - truly pays for the price of the guide itself. ... Appropriate haiku or other poetry usually begin each chapter, as do the delicate drawings. The cultural notes included amongst the numerous chapters are especially important for the first-time visitor to an area and can save major embarassments. Compared to some other guides, the Japan Handbook might be a bit pricey. However, it makes up for the difference with rich descriptions and numerous tidbits ranging from local stories and legends to maps. For anyone considering travelling to Japan, even for a brief time, or for those with an interest in what makes this country tick, I highly recommend this book.