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Having written over 10 guidebooks myself, I speak from experience when I say that working on these projects is a mixed blessing. Writing a first-time guide to a little-known part of the world, with the freedom to innovate with format and content, can be a rewarding task, but where there is a rigid template, it can be a thankless task. It’s something of a miracle then, to find these two new guidebooks to Tokyo and Kyoto that seem freshly minted.

Both works are unusual in that they recall the intimate, more personalized style of guidebook writing that typified the now collectable travel guides of the Victorian age. Such books are distinct for being highly original, erudite and literary. One recalls the charm of Augustus Hare’s guide to Provence, his descriptions of Avignon, a city that, despite the vulgarities and intrusions of the modern age, continues to hold the visitor in thrall. The same might be said of Tokyo.

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