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Sunday, April 13, 2003


Book bites

THE POCKET TOKYO SUBWAY GUIDE. By Boye Lafayette De Mente and Atsushi Umeda: Kodansha International, 2002, 112 pp., 950 yen (paper).

TOKYO METROPOLITAN AREA RAIL and ROAD ATLAS. By Atsushi Umeda. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2002 (revised edition), 95 pp., 2,200 yen (paper)

Tokyo's vast size and nameless streets can make even veteran residents feel like they're living in an amusement park maze. The only way to escape is to carry a good city atlas.

In addition to the usual maps of Tokyo's 12 subway lines that you find in most city guides, Kodansha's pocket subway atlas contains 40 area maps for the most widely used stations.

Each area map features the names of prominent streets and buildings in both Japanese and English, station-exit numbers and an information box that sums up the main attractions of the locale.

The index is arranged to let you quickly find public offices as well as popular commercial and tourist destinations. It also provides a comprehensive list of hotels, inns and airlines, complete with phone numbers.

Best of all, this atlas really does fit in your back pocket, making it a cinch to carry with you all the time.

Although Kodansha's rail and road atlas won't fit into your pocket, it is surprisingly small considering that it covers not only the entire city but extends deep into adjacent prefectures as well.

Unfortunately, its compactness comes at a high price. The city maps include numbers of the "chome" -- the geographical areas in which clusters of city blocks are organized -- but omit the numbers necessary for finding specific addresses within the broader chome.

The road maps are equally inconvenient. Not only do they lack address numbers, they also omit route numbers and names for most streets that fall below the classification of a "national road."

The presentations of comprehensive rail maps and bus routes are quite good, but they're probably not enough to justify the cost of this book. For a similar price, there are far better bilingual rail and road atlases available.

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