Speaking of maps, the Japanese are really scrupulous. Not to mention regional tourism websites, even in the websites of each individual sight there are detailed access information, stating time needed to travel from a particular starting point.
In the time when internet was still unknown, it could only be difficult for the foreign visitor to travel Japan. With a thick travel guidebook and folded map, it was near impossible to match the foreign names in the book and map with the Japanese words out there if one did not know any Japanese or Kanji characters. Even if one could read some Kanji, it would still be impossible to ask for directions from the local Japanese who barely spoke any English, though they would try their best to explain in Japanese. My Japanese teacher once joked that the Japanese tended to believe that if they spoke Japanese slowly and clearly they would eventually be understood. Yet whenever I meet these kind Japanese people who always try their utmost to help even when it is impossible to communicate, I cannot but feel a deep gratitude and respect for them.
In fact, at first I did worry that I would not be able to make sense of Japanese geography, especially their municipal system. But it proved that I have been worrying too much. Nowadays when everybody has a smartphone, it is rather difficult to get lost in Japan. Before going out one checks the websites in different languages and downloads the maps (recently I begin to save the interesting spots onto Google Maps, and use it with GPS – it cannot be more convenient), then consults the transport time table and fare, then it is not even necessary to bring a travel guidebook nor a map.
When one takes the city bus, that bus map with all the important sights printed on it proves very useful. A lot of bus stops are named after the sights, so for example to go to Kinkakuji one can just confidently get off at Kinkakuji-mae. At every bus stop there is information about the arrival time schedule at that particular stop (and it is more punctual than punctual), bus route and direction. Inside the bus there is the entire city bus map, while there is announcement at every stop and a monitor displaying the progress of the bus.
If one prefers to be more random, and take nothing with you out, there are maps everywhere in Kyoto. Regardless of those free maps available for free at the tourist centres and major transport depots, there are signs and maps at every street junction showing major and minor spots in the area and the distance. What impresses me most is that within each railway station there are sightseeing maps produced by the respective railway company, recommending spots along their railway lines and special tickets. For instance there were different recommended routes for seeing Sakura blossoms, how to see all the flowers along the railway line using a one-day pass. In major sights, cultural institutions, and even shops, one finds specially designed area maps, recommending not only themselves but the entire area and interesting things within. Each map has its own interests and style, and whenever I see one I would take it home, and studying maps has become my recent evening pastime.