January 25 2019
A Short Interview With Anthony Gardner – Editor Of Japan – 100 Hidden Towns
This is the first in our series of interviews with Japan-travel experts from overseas.
Anthony is the editor of the guidebook Japan – 100 Hidden Towns (published by Nellie’s Ltd.). We asked him some questions about his experiences of travelling in Japan.
PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TRAVELLING IN JAPAN
I came to Japan in 1999 and travelled to the well-trodden areas such as Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima in my first few years. I didn’t really travel to any smaller places until researching the book ‘Japan – 100 Hidden Towns’, which I had the pleasure to edit.
WHAT AREAS OF JAPAN HAVE YOU VISITED?
Now, I have travelled to most prefectures and I’m particularly fond of western and central Japan. My hobby is history, so I’m a fan of towns and areas which maintain older architecture and have a ‘feel of the past’ about them. There are some great places in Kyushu and the Chubu-Hokuriku areas of Japan that do this.
WHAT MEANS OF TRANSPORT GIVES YOU THE MOST PLEASURE WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY TRAVELLING IN JAPAN?
Of course the shinkansen is always a speedy pleasure. However, the most fun I’ve had is hiring a bicycle and going round the towns and countryside. Weather-permitting, this is a great way to get up close to the nature of Japan. If it’s a bit hilly, I’d recommend a battery-powered bicycle to get around, if you can hire one.
ARE THERE ANY SITUATIONS THAT STILL PRESENT DIFFICULTIES FOR YOU WHEN ON YOUR TRAVELS?
Having been in Japan many years, I’m lucky enough to be able to communicate quite easily in Japanese, so my hurdles are no longer linguistic. Unfortunately though, I don’t drive, so this can reduce accessibility to some of the more rustic areas and leaves me relying on infrequent local buses or expensive taxis.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY TRAVEL MISHAPS THAT OUR READERS CAN LEARN FROM?
Always give yourself plenty of time, and always have a Plan B. I travelled from Tokyo to a town called Himi in Toyama Prefecture. It was an especially windy day, which meant the local train services to Himi were cancelled, leaving me stranded at Toyama Station. The bus services were running ok though, so I hopped on a bus to Himi. The wind was unbelievably strong and it meant that, on the way there, the bus got stuck at a railway crossing because the wind had forced the crossing barrier permanently down. I had to inform the bus driver that no trains were running today so it was safe for us to lift up the barrier. With the help of the local police, we did so and were on our way, though I arrived in Himi far later than planned.
WHAT PLACES IN JAPAN ARE THERE THAT YOU STILL WANT TO VISIT?
There are many towns in the book that I didn’t personally visit, that have grabbed my attention. Also, I would like to go to some more of the islands of Japan, explore Mie Prefecture further, and visit Hokkaido – as I have only been there once.
FINALLY, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN JAPAN.
Shimabara in Nagasaki Prefecture – a town that combines history, culture and a great location – ticked every box for me. Not only is it close to Nagasaki (one of the best places to visit in Japan), but it has its own wonderful identity and proud history – showcased in its unique food and well-maintained historical architecture.