1962 Fodor’s Guidebook to Japan

Clearing out some books at home I rediscovered an old friend, the 1962 Fodor‘s Guidebook to Japan (and East Asia), that I picked up in a charity shop a few years back. Looking back to see what was being recommended to Japan visitors nearly 50 years ago is fascinating. It is also interesting to see how much of the advice still holds true today, so although many aspects of Japan have changed completely, many essential experiences have remained the same.

The Japan Bible for Sixties travellers

Let’s start at the beginning – how to get there. Fodor’s 1962 quotes return flights from London (“Polar route or Middle East”) at £729, which is remarkably similar to what a ticket would cost you today – oh no, hang on, that’s £729 for First Class – if only! And why fly with a UK carrier when you can enjoy the following with Japan Airlines, according to their ad in the 1962 book: “When you come aboard as our guest, be prepared to be pampered as only a Japanese hostess knows how; sip hot sake or iced champagne, nibble on traditional Japanese tidbits or familiar hors d’oeuvres…”

Come fly with me...

What else? Well, how about some aspects of Tokyo that HAVE changed: “Earthquake laws limit the height of buildings to 100 feet, which is perhaps seven storeys, but they all seem quite as huge as in New York or Chicago.” Or, “From Tokyo there are a dozen limited express trains daily, taking less than six hours to reach Kyoto“.

But as I said, plenty of what was back then, still goes today – “Japanese trains leave on the dot – never a few seconds later than scheduled”, or the advice on geisha – “A great deal has been written in an attempt to explain the geisha (pronounced gay-sha, not gee-sha), but there actually isn’t a great deal to explain. They are, simply and purely, highly trained entertainment girls who usually perform at relatively small gatherings. They dance, sing, serve you, make conversation and join in foolish little party games.” Fifty years later and the world is still confused about geisha – I cannot think of a more accurate description than Fodor’s had back in 1962 – well done them!

Look out for more observations from the 1962 book coming soon. Does anyone out there have an even older Japan guide book…?

6 Responses

  1. Awesome blog piece. So interesting to think about how Japan and the travel industry has changed. Any suggestions for what will be in the 2062 Fodor’s edition?!


  2. Interesting stuff from 1962. Although Japan has changed a lot since then, at the same time it hasn’t really changed….does that make sense?
    I will look forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book. Where did you get it from?


  3. I think I picked it up in a charity shop. A while ago. I am sure there are some other historical gems gathering dust out there. Might do some bookshop browsing this weekend…


  4. What a treasure to find! I love older versions of travel books. And what a succinct and accurate description of geisha. Thanks for sharing!


  5. […] the country is unmistakable. We love the unique blend of Japan-related content, from a piece on a 1962 Fodor Guide to Japan and Dragon Boat Racing in Colorado, to uncovering Japan’s unusual passions – who knew that the […]


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