Review

It turns out that when you walk 2000 miles through heat, rain, cold, wind (and some nice days); and when you speak fluent Japanese but are constantly confronted by people who talk to you as if you had no understanding; and when you are choked by truck fumes and forced off into the ditch by aggressive truck drivers: when all this happens you might occasionally get a little grumpy. Fortunately you have ample opportunities to down a beer or two, or 30 shots of sake, or the occasional painful blast of shochu, and then you are right again and ready for the next day of walking.

Booth walked the length of Japan from northeast to southwest, from cape Soya in Hokkaido to cape Sata in Kyushu, from June to November of 1977, never accepting a ride, and using the back roads as much as possible. Age 30, he had resided in Tokyo for seven years and wanted to learn more about his adoptive country. He was fluent in Japanese, even to the point of being able to speak in Aomori dialect as well as standard Japanese. So he experienced a side of Japan that most of us never could: actual conversation and interaction with people of all classes. As it happened, he met people of all types from the genuinely gracious and friendly to the unbelievably crass, stupid, and rude. And that became the point of the book: to show that it is impossible to generalize any more about Japanese people than about any others.

Of course, the Japan of 1977 is long gone, swallowed up by globalization, TV, and the bland homogeneous popular culture that has conquered the world. Sad, I suppose. So it is pleasant to read this excellent account of a way of life that barely exists anymore.

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Metadata Info

  • Title: The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan
  • Author: Alan Booth
  • Published: 1985
  • ISBN: 1568361874
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 4.0 stars