Bibliophile reviews The Roads to Sata (travel) by Alan Booth

Subtitle: A 2.000 mile walk through Japan
Year published: 1985
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Japan, 1980's

Booth had been a resident of Japan for 7 years and spoke the language fluently when he embarked on a walk from the country's northernmost corner at Cape Soya, to it's most southernmost, Cape Sata, in an effort to learn to understand Japan and the Japanese better. The book describes his mostly lonely journey of several months, his visits to tourist sites along the way and to places no tourist would ever go, and his encounters with people that ranged from absurd to funny to near tragic. He met people who refused to believe he spoke Japanese even though he did, people who viewed him like a circus freak and people who were afraid of him, but also people who accepted him with open arms and showed him kindness and friendship.

The most striking things about this travelogue, apart from the high quality writing, is the author's feeling of alienation towards his adopted homeland. He desperately wants to understand the culture of Japan, but the Japanese seem for the most part to be inscrutable to him. There is an aura of sadness over much of the book and while he did experience all sorts of weather, somehow it remains in the mind as a description of a rather rainy journey. While not very much happened to him in the way of adventure, the book is still an interesting and well written account of one man's attempt to understand a foreign culture and where he himself stands in relation to it.

Reviewers who are familiar with Japan and the Japanese say the book gives an accurate account of what any foreigner can experience upon visiting the country, and some have said it should be required reading before visiting Japan.

Rating: An interesting tale of a journey from one end of Japan to the other that deserves to become a travel classic. 4+ stars.

Comments

zia said…
This sounds like an interesting read; thanks for the recommendation. Have you read Japanland : A Year in Search of Wa by Karin Muller? She talks about the same sense of alienation.
Bibliophile said…
Japanland sounds interesting - I'll have to check it out. It's especially interesting for me to read about Japan now because I have an acquaintance who has just moved there and is studying the language and culture. Thanks for the recommendation.

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