From the author of The Roads to Sata', this book tells the story of an odyssey to the vanishing heart of Japan. A VIBRANT, MEDITATIVE WALK IN SEARCH OF THE SOUL OF JAPAN Traveling by foot through mountains and villages, Alan Booth found a Japan far removed from the stereotypes familiar to Westerners. Whether retracing the footsteps of ancient warriors or detailing the encroachments of suburban sprawl, he unerringly finds the telling detail, the unexpected transformation, the everyday drama that brings this remote world to life on the page. Looking for the Lost is full of'
Actually, though, calling an in-depth exploration like this one ‘travel writing’ is to insult its author: Booth was a long-term expatriate in Japan, fluent in the language and well-versed in the peculiarities of Japanese custom and culture. His observations are wry, telling and sometimes deep.
The book’s structure is simple: Booth narrates three long walks he has taken through rather obscure parts of Japan. On the first he follows the trail of a famous local boy from the northern tip of Honshu who ‘made good’ as an author in his own right. The second takes Booth into the steamy backcountry of Kyushu, as he traces the sad retreat of a 19th-century revolutionary general.
On the third – well, here I must pause and make confession: I stopped reading this book after part 2. It’s not that it wasn’t good; on the contrary, Booth is erudite, funny, insightful and eloquent throughout.
No, the problem was the tone of the narrative. There is a sense of grey melancholy and remorseless foreboding that pervades Booth’s travels. Perhaps knowing that the third walk ends in Booth first noting the illness that ultimately killed him colored my perceptions in a way that precluded me maintaining a disinterested perspective. But as much as enjoyed Booth’s skill as an observer, critic and writer, I found the two-thirds of the book I read heavy and hard to return to at times.
Recommended, but with some reservations.