JAPAN BY RAIL, by Ramsey Zarifeh. Trailblazer Publications, 2002, 416 pp., $18.95/2 yen,900(paper)

“Perfect timing,” I thought when I picked up this guide book, barely two weeks before a trip I was planning out of Tokyo. I flipped to the index to look for my destination: Mashiko, a pottery town close enough for a day trip from Tokyo. Nothing. The only listings for its prefecture, Tochigi, were Nikko and Utsunomiya, at a scant two paragraphs each. I looked some more. No Ibaraki. Nothing in Chiba outside of the airport. In fact, only one of the last five places I’d visited outside of Tokyo was in there.

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