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

Author(s): Alan Booth

2010-11-01 7/10

This book is the story of Alan Booth, a British writer in Japan, and his quest to walk from one end of Japan to the other. He makes a point of walking every single inch of the journey, even through bad weather and health. Along the way he gets into the all-important wacky Japan adventures that he made the trip for, along with getting to see some parts of the country that not many foreigners do.

To start with, the subject matter alone is quite a big plus point. To be honest its the sort of adventure I would hope to do myself at some point, but for the time being I'm happy to settle for Mr.Booths second-hand account. Japan is an exciting place, and the potential adventure walking from one end to the other is worth the ticket price no matter where it leads.

Alan spends the majority of his trip walking. When he's not walking, he spends his time looking for and staying in small family-run inns in the Japanese countryside, and these are the places where the majority of his interesting encounters with the natives take place.

These include, being refused lodging for being non-japanese on multiple occasions (despite speaking fluent Japanese), inadvertantly causing a truck to crash in a tunnel, being shouted at in the hiroshima war museum for being a foreigner and countless beer-fueled evenings sat around a kotatsu with the owners of the minshuku he stayed at during his trip.

Because Alan spoke fluent Japanese when he made the trip, the trouble he gets into isn't the typical 'Baka Gaijin in Japan' fare. He's a seasoned Japan traveller, and sometimes this exposes him to the not so friendly side of Japanese people that you may be able to rationalize away as being part of the language barrier if your Japanese isn't that good. Still, he handles himself with dignity in the various situations he gets into.

The book is dated. Alan made the trip more than twenty years ago, but having walked country paths in the Japanese outback and stayed at small family-run inns before, I get the feeling that things haven't changed a great deal. Perhaps by the time I got to the same places, they had seen a few more foreigners, but the reactions are still largely the same in the sleepier parts of Japan.

Towards the end I get the feeling that Alan stopped enjoying the trip, he seemed to have less patience for Japanese people who had never seen a foreigner before, but I suspect after months on the road anyone had the right to start being a little grumpy.

Overall its a good read if you're a traveller or have some interest in Japan. Its interesting to compare what Japan was like when the book was published and how it is now.