The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan by Alan Booth

The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan
Alan Booth
(Viking; Penguin, Toronto: 1986)

READ: March-May 2006

Alan Booth's two books (the other is Looking for the Lost, which I have not read yet but is on my shelf awaiting) are largely heralded as the two best travel books about Japan. I had heard this a few times, and then after Will Ferguson went on and on about him, I figured I had to find his books. One Chapters order later, they arrived.

I took my time reading this book, mainly because it was so delicious. Booth moved to Japan in 1970, and in 1977, he set out from the northern tip of Hokkaido and walked all the way across Japan, all the way south to the southernmost tip of "mainland" Japan, Cape Sata on the south shore of Kyushu Island. It was over 2,000 miles (as the title suggests). He tells poignant and often funny stories of the people he meets, of people who follow him slowly in their cars in the rain because they can't understand why he refused their offer of a lift, of people he chats with about life, death, and WWII in little pubs in small towns. It is a touching portrait of Japan.

It was also interesting to compare Booth's Japan to Ferguson's, since Booth took his cross-Japan trek in the late 1970s while Ferguson was there, post-crash, in the mid-90s.

A wonderful, well-written book that I'd recommend to anyone with an interest either in Japan itself, or just in armchair travel in general.

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