Looking For The Lost: Journeys Through A Vanishing Japan
Alan Booth was a Brit whose forte was walking around Japan. His first book on the subject, Roads To Sata, was published in 1985 and documents his epic journey on foot from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Kyushu, a trip that one critic described as a 2,000 mile pub-crawl. Looking For The Lost, his last book, was published in 1994, shortly after his untimely death from cancer, and it concerns three shorter journeys on foot through the hinterland of Japan.
The first journey takes him to the Tsugaru peninsular in Aomori Prefecture where he follows in the footsteps of Dazai Osamu, a novelist who revisited his hometown in Tsugaru forty four years earlier.
The second journey finds him in Kyushu, retracing the route taken by Saigo on his final retreat, the reality of which bears little resemblance to how it was portrayed in Hollywood’s rendition in The Last Samurai.
The final walk finds him heading north out of Nagoya in search of remnants of the Heike, the clan that was virtually wiped out in the Genpei War of the late twelfth century. On all his walks he stays mainly to the back roads, not mountain trails, and he usually sleeps in ryokan or minshoku, not in a tent, leading to interactions with local people (invariably over a beer or three), and combined with his encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese history and culture we gain insights into a Japan that is little known by those who stick to the cities and major tourist sites. This final book also contains many of his reflections on how Japan has changed in the 25 years since he first lived here, noticeably that travel for foreigners is much easier now. Excellent travel writing.
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Saturday, June 25, 2005
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