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

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  593 ratings  ·  61 reviews
ALAN BOOTH'S CLASSIC OF MODERN TRAVEL WRITING
Traveling only along small back roads, Alan Booth traversed Japan's entire length on foot, from Soya at the country's northernmost tip, to Cape Sata in the extreme south, across three islands and some 2,000 miles of rural Japan. The Roads to Sata is his wry, witty, inimitable account of that prodigious trek.
Although he was a c
...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 14th 1997 by Kodansha (first published 1985)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,089)
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Jamie
Man, it is hard to say just how much I like this book. Alan Booth, seven years into his life in Japan decides to walk the length of the archipelago. In the process he seems to empty himself out completely, opening himself up to the sights and smells (and beer) of rural Japan. There is not a shred of interpretation or theorizing about "What is Japan?" in the whole book, which just leaves you with a long series of vignettes and many, many bottles of beer. The book is funny without jokes, sad witho ...more
Brian
One of my least favorite parts of popular writing about Japan is how the same tired tropes keep coming up over and over again. It's either how Japan is a paradise of harmony with nature and ancient traditions in the modern age, with plenty of references to wabi sabi and mono no aware and geisha and kami and sakura, or how Japan is crazy and weird, with references to dakimakura and soushoku danshi and Kanamara Matsuri and hostess bars and low birthrates. It is to The Roads to Sata's eternal credi ...more
Josie
I read this book in the hopes of becoming enthusiastic about an unwilling move to Japan. I was hoping to learn about the culture and some out of the way sights. Unfortunately, this book was about a man walking along roads, with no particular interest in sights. Entirely readable and thoroughly depressing. I learned: that the Japanese litter, there are an awful lot of snakes in Japan. Also an awful lot of racism. If you don't like fish, you'll probably be eating random and weird things. This auth ...more
Robin Massey

Style: evocative, dryly witty, immersed in Japanese life 'on the road

http://www.travelreaderreviews.com/2013/08/book-review-roads-to-sata-2000-mile
Countries/Cities under the Spotlight: Japan

Recommend? Yes, for the dedicated trekking fan and for Japan aficionados

Map: Yes Photos: No

I marvelled at Alan’s ability to record so much ‘colour’ and detail day after day in the pre-digital, pre-Gortex age and under often trying conditions. His wry humour and insights into Japanese life also lured me to rea
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Kay
An introspective travelogue, focused more on the inner than outer journey -- my favorite kind of travelogue, in fact.

Booth walked from the northernmost to the southernmost points in Japan, a trek of some 2,000 miles. Although he spoke fluent Japanese, he found that the perceptions (especially in rural areas) of his "foreignness" created almost an invisible barrier. Still, there were times when he transcended cultural perceptions and had amazing encounters.

Rather episodic by nature, Booth's obs
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Jim
Can we find a little joy in Japan? Ferguson did. Granted, Booth was writing in the 1980s, not far removed in the grand scheme of things, from defeat at the hand of evil empire (oh, wait, that's the Middle Eastern view) and cultural upheaval, and granted also that a journalist must call them like they see them, but really, you almost get the feeling that the hiking trip from top to bottom of the islands was foisted on him by his publishers and he wasn't having it. It is basically a litany of bewi ...more
Ashley
Alan Booth is a gifted writer. I was drawn ever onward through his adventures, despite a total lack of the thrill or complicated plot that drives so many stories these days. I loved the dialogue that he portrayed, and I loved that he let us draw our own conclusions about why the conversations were included and what they meant. My heart ached for him and his struggle with being "foreign". I could relate to almost every stereotype and bias that he was saddled with on his walk. I was actually astou ...more
John
Alan Booth’s sadly premature death from cancer in his 40s remains a tragedy, for one of the best travel writers of the English language will neither write nor travel again.

A must-read for anyone interested in Japan, and a must-read for one devoted to superlative writing, for Booth transcends the mundane and ordinary while simultaneously revelling in both, and embodies with ease the Japanese aesthetic of “mono-no-aware”: delight in the beauty and pathos of ephemeral things.

It is no exaggeration
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Susan
I really enjoyed this book. I was puzzled by several things. He always walked on the road; he never seemed to have snacks or food with him; and he talked often about drinking beer and sake, but never water. I think things have changed a lot with the walking/hiking crowd since the 80's, but still....

It was surprising the difficulty he had as a non-Asian walking in parts of Japan. Some of the most fascinating observations concerned the difficulty many Japanese had in accepting that a white man wh
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Ginny
Feb 04, 2008 Ginny marked it as non-starters
Halfway through, it really just became to repetitive.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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
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Andrew Frueh
An unflinchingly honest chronicle of Alan Booth's four month walk down the entire length of Japan. Booth had the advantage of being a fluent Japanese speaker, but throughout his journey he was almost always an outsider. As someone with an interest in Japanese culture, that is the aspect of the book I found most interesting. Booth made his journey in 1986, so in fairness, things may have changed some since the advent of the Internet and global media.

A reoccurring theme throughout his journey was
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Tim Hulsizer
Jan 15, 2010 Tim Hulsizer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Travel fans & Japanophiles
Alan Booth died in 1993 from colon cancer, but not before writing a couple of top-notch travel books about Japan, the country where he lived for many years with his wife and daughter. In this book, Booth tells the story of his mid-1980s walk from Soya, the northernmost tip of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Japan, Cape Sata. Booth finds more than just blisters and beer on his epic journey. As he passes from town to town, he focuses on the little things about each place: individuals, town festiva ...more
S.
Alan Booth's travel classic narrates 2000 miles walking through Japan, wherein Booth turned down repeated offers of rides and eschewed buses, trains, bicycles, or any other alternate form of transportation. A "smart, subtle" writer, and somewhat wistful to boot, Booth was a clear Japanophile, but he avoided stupid glorification of superficial details to characterize inner truth and genuine sentiment. One is bombarded, traveling around Japan, with the resident foreign expert in every bar or water ...more
Diane
Booth spoke Japanese fluently and had lived in Japan for 7 years when he went on his 2000 mile walk from the northern tip of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Kyushu. This is the kind of trip I always think I would like to do and it also reminded me of our wonderful cross country hitchhiking trip in 1978. Booth does his trip with little reflection but by simply recording what he sees, how he is treated, the weather, the landscape. Somehow you learn a lot from his method. He eschewed the biggest ci ...more
Paul
128 days, 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles), most likely in 1985. This account of walking the length of the Japanese nation is a very normalized account of what sounds as demanding as a 2,000-mile walk might be - along coastlines, across mountains, alongside active volcanoes, through towns, cities and rural areas, staying mostly in inns, and meeting a wide variety of people. I was nagged by wanting to have articulated what prompted the trek, and thankfully, Booth concludes the book by stating that. ...more
Melanie Ting
Frankly, the Japanese government should be paying to repress this book. Booth, with his fluent Japanese and skillful observation, tears away the image of a polite, helpful race and reveals the deep prejudices underneath. The author reveals ignorance, lies, cruelty to people & animals, stupidity—all underpinned with a fear and loathing for foreigners. Anyone who has spent extended time in Japan knows the feeling of being an outsider, but hopefully not to this extent.

Occasionally, Booth does e
...more
Eliot Boden
Almost put this down, the first 100 pages or so were dreary. (What is it about Hokkaido that brings out the most negative travel writing?) The book picked up after Booth passed through Akita in northern Honshu, and by Niigata he was positively cheerful. I thoroughly enjoyed the latter half of his journey,and many of the encounters with Japanese had me laughing aloud.
Kirsten
What a rare gem: a travel book I actually enjoyed! Thanks to my friend Lucy for the recommendation.

Booth has a rare perspective for a travel writer. Before writing this book he had lived in Japan for 7 years, so he knew the language and was at least acquainted with the infamously impenetrable culture of the country, so he has both an outsider's perspective on and a pretty intimate relationship with it. This strikes a balance that most travel writers I've read don't even approach.

His prose style
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David Willis
Nothing else like it. As a resident of Japan I read this before moving and this book kindled an excitement in me for Japan. It's a fascinating account of a foreigners walk through Japan, where most of the residents he meets had never even seen a foreigner before. I've since read it again and it reads just as a well a second time. The finest piece of travel writing I've read.
Jennifer
May 28, 2008 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Reuben Quinones
I love travel memoirs, but this is one of the absolute best I have read. In it, Alan Booth spends several months walking the length of (rural) Japan in the mid-80s, and this is his account of what he saw and who he met along the way. He's not overly romantic about Japan, nor is he overly critical--he just writes what he sees and feels so that I felt as if I had walked with him (minus the blisters). The passage in which he plays the taiko drum at a local festival was my favorite bit--I could feel ...more
Abby
Alan Booth had lived in Japan long enough to avoid the temptation of making those silly generalizations about Japanese culture, the Japanese mind, etc., and so his account of his journey, on foot, from one end of Japan to the other, was very enjoyable to me. People are strange and complicated all over the world, as Booth's funny and serious account displays, but I will always harbor a special fondness for the strange complexity of the Japanese. Pleasant to read; really made me want to go back to ...more
Adine Eva
Alan Booth spoke Japanese - if I could, I would follow in his footsteps. Beautiful descriptive views of Japan
da-wildchildz
The Roads to Sata has affirmed my need to experience Japan. Booth’s wayward wanderings coupled with his witty wonderings have me raring to travel and explore. Particularly enjoyed reading of incidents, where locals speak of Booth not knowing he understands what they’re saying; something I experience regularly around people of the same origin as me!
Jason Keenan
The third travel masterpiece I've read since launching my Year of Japan books. Booth's story of 128 days walking the length of Japan from north to south is what all travel writing should aspire to be - part glimpse into a place, part glimpse into the author's mind. Booth delivers both - and makes you wish you had the energy to do the same walk.

Written about the late 1970s it's also the story of a now vanished Japan. It seems that in English at least no one has tackled a good Japanese travellers
...more
Peter Milligan
Devilishly clever book. What a great idea he had!
Teodora
From a beginning to the end: amazing Man and His journey.
Sarah Brandel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tyson
A very interesting look at Japan. Since I live in South Korea, I can't help but notice a lot of similarities. Especially the way everyone acts when the encounter a foreigner. While the book was written decades ago, it did not feel dated. It is also a great book for anyone considering coming over to an Asian country as it does a fairly good job of telling it like it is without making the Japanese people look absurd or idiotic. A heartfelt journey into the Japan and a decent account of what life i ...more
Robyn
Wow that took me a long time. Not sure why. I really enjoyed this book, especially since I live in Japan temporarily and am always learning more about the country. I just got distracted with other things and was in a weird reading season of not being able to focus. But today I stayed with it and finished the second half. I'll read anything else by Booth I can find. I really enjoyed his writing (and life) style.

(Better to find another member for a review of this book. I need to let this settle.)
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Alan Booth was born in London in 1946 and traveled to Japan in 1970 to study Noh theater. He stayed, working as a writer and film critic, until his death from cancer in 1993.
More about Alan Booth...
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