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Which Japan Travel Guide is Right for You?

July 26, 2019

Planning a trip to Japan is a million times easier with a solid Japan travel guide—but finding the best Japan travel guide to fit your interests and priorities can seem like Mission Impossible. To help you choose the ideal Japan travel guide, we’re laying out the pros and cons of each option, including guidebooks, DIY travel guides, travel agents, and local trip planners. Weigh the pros and cons, then get started planning your Japan itinerary with your travel guide of choice. 

To go beyond the guidebooks, connect with a local to plan your trip. They’ll design a custom itinerary based on your interests and travel style, which means you’ll see Japan YOUR way—with their advice. Why see Japan like a tourist when you could see it like a local? Learn more.

Option 1: Guidebooks

When it comes to Japan travel guides, guidebooks are an option
Guidebooks are an option | emptyseas/Flickr

Pros: Guidebooks are available at most bookstores and libraries, and they’re published by major travel companies that know their stuff. To help you plan a trip to Japan with ease, they explain the country’s highlights in a way that’s easy to understand—plus, they often contain fold-out maps, and keep all your Japan travel tips in one handy little book. 

Cons: If you want to create an original itinerary, guidebooks won’t be much help—they feature the same places to go in Japan that everybody and their grandmas visit over and over and over. Heads up: that’s a recipe for tourist traps. Guidebooks also are outdated the second they’re published, and you’re expected to pay much more for the latest versions. If you hit up the same things to do in Tokyo as everyone else, that’s not much of an authentic experience. 

Option 2: DIY—TripAdvisor and travel blogs

When it comes to Japan travel guides, DIY is an option
DIY travel | rawpixel/Pexels

Pros: The internet is a wonderful place—use any search engine, and you’ll come across a virtual treasure chest of DIY Japan travel guides. Ranging from travel blogs to TripAdvisor, there are plenty of resources that can help you build a DIY Japan itinerary. If you’re acting as your own Japan travel guide, you can cut down on expenses and plan a trip to Japan that suits your interests.

Cons: Being your own travel guide might sound ideal in theory, but it often ends up being just plain stressful in the long run. When it comes to internet reviews, blogs, or even Reddit, finding travel tips from reliable sources can be time-consuming, especially as you weed out real travel experiences from the paid reviews or personal problems. In fact, the average time it takes to plan your own trip is a whopping 23 hours—yikes. 

Option 3: Travel agents

When it comes to Japan travel guides, travel agents are an option
Travel agents are an option | Headway/Unsplash

Pros: Japan travel agents tend to be well-connected to airlines, tour groups, and hotels, so they can get you some solid discounts. People sometimes choose to work with travel agents for the assurance they provide—for example, if you’re going to Japan for the first time or traveling solo, travel agents are available for questions during the planning process to make sure everything goes smoothly. 

Cons: Travel agents work on commission, meaning they receive kickbacks when they point you toward services they’re affiliated with. Obviously, this presents a conflict of interest if you don’t want to only interact with those services. Plus, since it’s rare for travel agents to actually live in Japan, their travel advice usually doesn’t come from firsthand experience—meaning they don’t necessarily know more about planning a trip to Japan than you do. Additionally, if you have questions or need to make last-minute changes, travel agents are difficult to get in touch with due to the 12+ hour time difference between the US and Japan. 

Option 4: Local trip planners

When it comes to Japan travel guides, local guides are the best option
Local guides are the best option | Jérémy Stenuit/Unsplash

Pros: For firsthand knowledge of Japan’s must-dos, local trip planners are the best resource out there. Since they actually live in Japan, local trip planners have personal expertise in finding off-the-beaten-path spots, navigating Japan’s best cities, and recommending the best times to go to Japan. Plus, they’re experienced in creating customized Japan trips from scratch, so you’ll be able to cover must-dos in Tokyo, Kyoto, and other amazing places while going on a trip unlike anyone else’s. No cookie-cutter trips here.

Cons: None. If you’re looking for an authentic Japan experience, you can’t beat trip-planning with someone who actually lives there. By personalizing your Japan itinerary with a local trip planner, you’ll get to see Japan just like locals do. If amazing sightseeing spots, off-the-beaten-path wonders, and customized recommendations sound like your gig, get connected with a local trip planner ASAP


Japan travel guides should be as unique as each traveler. Our local trip planners create customized Japan travel guides based on your interests and their firsthand knowledge—so basically, it’s like a Lonely Planet just for you. Connect with a local Japan expert to get started on your ultimate Japan itinerary, then find more locally-curated travel info here:


Still have questions about travel to Japan?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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