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

by Alan Booth

Paper Book, 1985

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Weatherhill, 1985.

Media reviews

Although Alan Booth was a city person - having been born and brought up in London and spending most of his working life in Tokyo - one of his main strengths as a writer was his ability to capture the anecdotes and atmosphere of present-day rural Japan, a world of farmers and fishermen, shopkeepers and school children, festivals and funerals. Booth's skill was to be able to walk into a small inn or restaurant in a remote corner of Japan where at first he would be greeted with considerable suspicion, but would end up entertaining the assembled company with folk-songs that even the Japanese did not know and listening to the life-story of the innkeeper's wife. This was a world far removed from the slick city life and corporate comforts of urban Japan. With sharp wit he criticised Japan's manic modernity and his sympathies always lay with people whose houses were pulled down to make way for new motorways.

User reviews

LibraryThing member skinglist
Wow, this was an absolutely fabulous book! It's going to do a mini ring of the BCers in this house but before it goes, some thoughts:

"I stamped off down the coast road in as foul a mood as an overcast day, two silly women, and seven years of being a sideshow can provoke."

I liked this, he mentioned the issues gaijin face here in Japan but he didn't dwell. Far too many foreigners dwell on the negatives and that's part of what makes books like A Ride in the Neon Sun can be hard to read. Yes, you're going to get stared at, it's a given. Have your bad moments but either accept it and move on or find a country where you blend in more.

"A hush fell over the children while their stunned little minds tackled the unimaginable: the thing could speak intelligible language"
Awe-struck children always make me smile. I admit I've had my fair bit of surprise when I see Japanese children nattering on fluently and I realise a toddler can speak better than me but I've also had the reverse where kids are in awe that I speak. Either way the pure innocence of children is great.

"...'There are so many Japanese things I'd miss. I'd miss the four seasons like anything. They don't have four seasons abroad, do they?'..."
*Giggle* Always one of my favourite discussions. I think it's taught in school or something that only Japan has four seasons since it's such a widely held belief.

...'A country is like a sheet of paper; it's got two sides. On one side there's a lot of fancy lettering--that's the side that gets flaunted about in public. But there's always a reverse side to a piece of paper--a side that might have ugly doodlings on it, or bits of graffiti, or goodness knows what. If you're going to write about a country, make good and sure you write about both sides.'...
I love things like this, the honesty he get from people he spoke with, and that he conveyed in the book. It's like Alex Kerr said in Lost Japan, there's a lot more to Japan than gets discussed and this is something of the Japanophiles that frustrates me to some extent. To truly love a country you should accept it, warts and all, not try to idolize it to something that doesn't really exist. I hear some people telling stories about Japan and I wonder what Japan they know because it's not one I've ever seen. Japan is great, but it's not perfect.

I love how the Japanese are attached to calendar dates--the rainy season hasn't started yet because the news hasn't said it, never mind the weather and AB couldn't have been stung by a jellyfish because 'the jellyfish season ended yesterday'.

"The gallery owners decided eventually that the optimum time for viewing the Mona Lisa was seven seconds, and this was felt by most art lovers to be satisfactory. It is not surprising, then, that two or three seconds suffice for the Bridge of Heaven. Mount Fuji generally rates five or six and the Second Coming of Christ will merit ten."

Indeed. But not particularly Japanese. I think it's just more obvious here when there is a whole busload of them staring for the same few seconds, taking the same photos...

I found his thoughts on Hiroshima an interesting and challenging read. Though he doesn't explicitly give the dates of his trip, you can work it out because he was travelling when
Sadaharu Oh broke Hank Aaron's record. 1977. It was a lot closer to the end of WW2 and the bombings than we are now, and as a consequence emotions were closer to the surface. He met survivors as a matter of course. He skipped a lot of cities I know the most, I'm glad he didn't skip this one.

This was a quick, but not unsubstantial read. He managed to balance the good and the bad of the country without coming off as jaded or condescending. Makes me even more eager to track down a copy of Looking for the Lost, though I found reading the non-fiction words of a deadman to be a bit disconcerting.
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LibraryThing member cestovatela
Alan Booth walks from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Kyushu. His book is a vivid account of the people he met, the villages and hot springs he passed through, and the way modernity is changing Japan. I admired his even-handed writing style which allows him to share the magic of the countryside he explores and to acknowledge the hardships of his journey without sounding like a whiner.… (more)
LibraryThing member debnance
This book is going straight to the top of my list of favorite travel narratives. What a story! What amazing people he met! And what a writer Booth is!

In the early eighties, Booth decides to travel from the tip of Japan in the north to the tip of Japan in the south. On foot. Along the way, he meets perplexing Japanese person after perplexing Japanese person. Here’s a sample:

‘I recognized the turnoff to the lodging house...by a brightly lit electric sign glowing an effusive welcome...The doors of the lodging house were curtained and locked and it took five minutes of rattling them to rouse the white-shirted custodian, who bustled out finally to tell me that they were closed.
“But you’ve got a sign all lit up down on the highway.”
“Yes. We always keep it lit.”
“What for, for goodness’ sake?”
“To make people feel welcome.”
“But you’re closed.”
“That’s right.”

If you like travel narratives, you will love this one. Side note: I wish you luck trying to find a copy. I’ve had this on my wish list for at least five years and I only found a copy this summer.
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LibraryThing member KatherineGregg
Author Alan Booth describes his experience walking the length of Japan from the Cape Soya in Hokkaido to Cape Sata in Kyushu. Booth treks through back roads along the Sea of Japan, stopping in ryokans (country inns) to sleep; eating and drinking with the locals (Booth speaks fluent Japanese having lived in Tokyo for many years); experiencing local festivals; swimming in the sea; and bathing in the springs. Written with humor, Booth provides a picture of the landscape, a little history and a glimpse into the lesser known parts and people of Japan. The walk covered around 2,000 miles and took four months.… (more)
LibraryThing member MerkabaZA
A wonderfully crafted tale of Booth's journey through a fascinating and culturally unique country. Whimsical and strange adventures lie behind each page.

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