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A Classic Traveller Tale of Japan


In the mid-1980s Alan Booth, a writer, theatre director and professor, walked from the "northernmost cape of Japan's northernmost island" to Sata, the southernmost cape of the southernmost of Japan's four "main" islands. In setting out on this 2000-mile trek, a trek as illogical as it was difficult, Booth, fluent in Japanese, wrote perhaps the great travel book about Japan. A book at least as much about the inkeepers and fellow drinkers he meets on his many month journey as the richly detailed history of the country he traverses. This is a book as funny as it is poignant. None - not even Haruki Murakami's books - make me long more for the country I lived in for five years of my life, and that I continue to long for in ways neither a coffee shop conversation nor a blog post could possibly suffice. Instead I turn to a great travel writer, whose tale I find myself dipping into again and again and wanted to share with you.


This, from the Author's Note that begins "The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan".

I have tried to avoid generalizations, particularly "the Japanese." "The Japanese" are 120,000,000 [sic] people, ranging in age from 0 to 119, in geographical location across 21 degrees of latitude and 23 of longitude, and in profession from emperor to urban guerilla. This book is about my encounters with some twelve hundred businessmen, farmers, grandmothers, fishermen, housewives, shopkeepers, schoolchildren, soldiers, policemen, monks, priests, tourists, journalists, professors, laborers, maids, waiters, carpenters, teachers, innkeepers, potters, dancers, cyclists, students, truck drivers, Koreans, Americans, bar hostesses, professional wrestlers, government officials, hermits, drunks, and tramps.

-Alan Booth