In 2015, after booking two tickets from Melbourne to Tokyo, I bought eight guidebooks. This worked out to one for each full day of our holiday. It wasn’t enough.
I started with the basics, a couple of Lonely Planets- Tokyo and Kyoto. They gave me the lowdown on the seasons, how much to budget for transport, and the sense that no-one had actually been to Japan for awhile.
Next, I got a bit fancy, with a guide from Monocle, a little one featuring local creatives listing their favourite spots, and another book filled with lovely illustrations by an artist who lived in Japan for a year. Less useful, but beautiful were a book on Japanese architecture, and a book of Tokyo-based recipes.
The last one to join the ranks turned out to be the most useful- Hello Sandwich, a zine from a Melburnian living in Tokyo.
I read the books, but I had questions. When I turned to the internet, things got weird. I tried Quora, GaijinPot and Tofugu. What was online was largely from Westerners who had lived in Japan. Some were bitter about their time there, some were patronising about tourists, some seemed great, most just talked about 7–11 a lot.
The best resource I found were friends who had been before. When I asked for tips and ideas, I got pages in return. Some people forwarded on lists they’d put together for other friends, other people wrote notes just for me. This turned out to be the good stuff. I pored over these pages and decided what was going to be it for us.
I turned the pages into a PDF, and sent a copy to everyone who'd got in touch with me. They passed it on. People got in touch with me to ask for a copy. We made it to Version III. I set up a Facebook Group where people could ask each other questions, and an Instagram for all the photos I had. Finally, I built this site for everything else I want to be able to share about a place that has, in many ways, been life changing for me.