Hokkaido Highway Blues
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Hokkaido Highway Blues

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  1,698 ratings  ·  167 reviews
The book follows Will Ferguson as he hitchhikes 1,800 miles north through Japan following the Cherry Blossom Front (Sakura Zensen). The arrival of the blossom is a national event in Japan, eagerly tracked on television bulletins, and besides marking the end of winter and the start of the business cycle it facilitates a burst of heavy drinking disguised as a communal medita...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Canongate Books (first published 1998)
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coriolinus
Not many things that advertise themselves as blues actually deliver the emotion. It was somewhat startling, then, to discover that this book is in fact deeply, profoundly melancholic.

Ferguson started with nothing but a boast, elevated by coworkers more enthusiastic than he is into a grand plan. To hitchhike the length of Japan isn't a particularly sane or rational plan, but caught up in the enthusiasm of those who hear of it, he eventually goes through with it.

In the beginning, all is well. Thi...more
Juli
Another wonderful travelogue... the traveler this time makes astute observations of the Japanese nationals he encounters as he hitchhikes north from the southernmost tip of Japan.

Being an Asian-American, I can see both sides of the espy. It is easy to relate to the often awkward, big-hearted, intensely curious, 'liberal' American being given an opportunity to look through a usually closed window into the private lives of the average Japanese citizen in Japan.
I can also see how the Japanese use t...more
k8inorbit
Sep 27, 2007 k8inorbit rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of travel books, people interested in japan
Shelves: non-fiction, japan
This one was interesting. Ferguson is definitely a westerner in a different culture and sometimes he seems to revel in making encounters awkward, instead of taking the easy route. However, he hitchhiked from the bottom of Japan to the top, went to dozens and dozens of places off the main tourist routes, met dozens and dozens of people and the book is filled with interesting moments and observations. Observations on places, on people, and on two cultures meeting each other and trying to have a co...more
Ainsley
Greatly enjoyed this - found myself giggling a lot and reading bits out loud to my husband. Many of the author's experiences mirrored my own, and the whole thing is free of the pompousness and attitude of having attained deep insights into the "other" that afflicts so much writing about Japan. Don't know what those who haven't been to Japan, or who led a different sort of life there, would make of it, but it worked for me.
Alison
Dec 22, 2013 Alison added it
This book stopped me falling asleep at my regular hour night after night because it had me laughing so much. Will Ferguson's ironic sense of humour is very amusing, and a nice balance to his insightful observations on Japan. I'm usually suspicious of foreigners who spend a few years in Japan, take themselves too seriously and decide to write a book explaining some aspect of unique, mysterious Japan. But this guy is fully qualified, having done enough time in the country in a remote area, learned...more
Tasha Swinney
I thought Ferguson's memoir was excellent and well-written. He provides really important insights and muses on what it's like to be a Westerner in Japanese culture. He's not a total Japanophile and he isn't particularly jaded, he has an average perspective and I think that's important. Too many expats are at one end or the other of the extreme. I've been familiar with Japanese culture for years, but Ferguson had things to teach me as well, including insights into Buddhism and Shintoism, and the...more
Libby
I absolutely adored this book. It has hitched its way into my Top 5 Books of the Year and Top 10 Fave books on Japan.

The main thing I enjoyed was Wil Ferguson's writing style. He has this fantastic ability to be poetic in one paragraph:

I think I caught Niigata on a bad day. Everything looked sullen and solied and worn out. Even the cities smokestacks, painted in stripes like candy canes, emerged from the industrial haze like sooty sweets dug out from under a sofa cushion.

and hilariously profane...more
Tom Barker
Not just one of my favorite travel books or books about Japan,but one of my favorite books period.Nice to read a travel book about Japan that actually gets beneath the surface and strikes a nice balance between fawning or bashing, unlike many others by people who stay for a year and consider themselves experts*see Learning to bow for example.

He makes fun of Japan alot but also doesnt take himself too seriously which makes for some funny stuff.
Jeane
*IF YOU LIVE OR EVER HAVE LIVED IN JAPAN YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!*
Finally done! I have been reading this book since August! The reason it took so long? Well mostly personal life stuff, the other reason though is that it was too freaking long! But I loved it anyway, but seriously too long. And you know what? I read the second, edited, and condensed version! But regardless of this book being too long it was just priceless for any ex-pat who is either living in Japan or has lived in Japan. It was h...more
David
A Canadian hitchhikes from the southern to northern tips of Japan, giving us brief and fascinating glimpse-windows into the lives of the people who give him rides. At first it seemed spot-on, not only in terms of his descriptions of Japan, but in terms of the conflicting turmoil of emotions that Japanophile Westerners go through when they live there. As the book progressed, though, he got more and more bitter, and did not give a fair representation, in my view, of the Japanese.

The book revealed...more
Karen
Dec 04, 2012 Karen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: japan
Although at first the author's tone was a little galling, you soon learn that Will Ferguson is not quite so much the unconcerned egoist as he would like to appear. Or at least, he is able to point out, and make fun of, his own personality and self-interest in a way that endears him to the reader. This honest self-appraisal also allows him to point out and make fun of the qualities of the Japanese people and their way of life with abandon. The book becomes not so much about Japan (although as a c...more
Kkraemer
Will Ferguson seems to be a very honest writer. He not only tells of his journeys, but of this thinking and -- most importantly -- the things he does and says even when he's being a jerk. Very believable. Occasionally laugh out loud funny.

After teaching English in Japan for a few years, he decides to hitchhike from the southernmost tip of Japan (a very lush, almost tropical area) to the northernmost tip (think Northern sea, icebergs off the coast sort of place). He follows the sakura, the cherr...more
Hollowspine
This book is the answer I needed all those years in Japanese class when my fellow students seemed to idolize the Japanese as if they were some sort of super race that could do no wrong and had invented everything that was cool. This book shows what a gaijin would face during their time in Japan. Like Will Ferguson they would have their share of adventures and meetings with really nice, helpful people and then they would have those times when they just wished they weren't treated as entertainment...more
Rachel
There's no denying that Will Ferguson is a talented writer; however he spends entirely too much time complaining about being treated as a gaijin when he behaves exactly like one, and - get this shocking piece of news - he is one. He is astute enough to realize that his issue with Japan is that as a Westerner, he wants to have the privilege of being welcomed into Japanese society, and have the luxury of being able to reject it. Unfortunately, it is the other way around: he is welcomed into Japane...more
Melody
Oh man. Oh man, Oh man. Ladies and gentlemen, this book is going to rock your world. It's an amazing narrative. I am speechless after reading this. I have never laughed so hard while reading book. BEWARE: your gut may bust.

Ferguson, a Canadian comme moi, tells of his travels in Japan. As a young adult he taught English at a school in Japan. On his vacation he decided to follow the cherry blossom front north along the length of the country. The most amazing part is that he hitchhiked the ENTIRE...more
Lori-ann
A really fun book about the author’s journey across Japan to follow the progress of the Sakura (cherry blossoms). I had enjoyed his book Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw" a book I picked up because once upon a time I lived in Saskatchewan. Serendipitously, it was also while living in Saskatchewan that I came into contact with Japanese culture. So the book, in an unexpected way, took me back to my days in Saskatchewan, and this 'review' is less about the contents of the book and all about the effect i...more
Michael
Although theoretically I have a right to be peeved off (book republished as "hitching rides with Buddha", I picked it up at a used bookstore thinking it was a sequel), actually I will bump up the rating for HHB to 4/5, based on quality of re-read. first read this possibly as early as '98... more likely, '00... just years ago, in other words. remembered only its broad topic matter and a flicker of a data point / scene description here or there; indeed did not specifically realize it was a republi...more
Louise
The author hitchhikes north following news alerts on the spring cherry blossoms, timing his trip to meet the blossom "front". He gives the reader his take on the people, places and history of Japan.

At first I thought there was an attitude, but as I read on, I came to understand Ferguson's unique perspective. While this book had me laughing out loud, there is a lot of depth. I came to understand Japan in a whole new way.

Ferguson reminds the reader that outside of the crowded cities there are big...more
Kirei
When I saw this on the library shelf, I thought "Why would I want to read about Hokkaido?" (Hokkaido is the northern most island--ahem, MAIN island--in Japan.) It turns out that it is actually about the memoirs of a Canadian who hitchhiked from the southern most tip of the four main island of Japan to the the northernmost point. So it is a great book for learning about Japanese culture and geography. He writes about everything from the obvious topics (love hotels, sumo, geisha) to the less obvio...more
Kristen
Absolutely loved this book! Having lived in Japan for a year with my husband, I loved the shared, collective experience of being a "gaijin" in Japan. I'm not sure whether it is due to the culture being so homogeneous, or foreigners being the same, but I'd had several identical experiences--even conversations--as Will Ferguson. I laughed my way through the book, and read almost half of it out loud to my husband. If you want an interesting, hilarious, insightful, informative, and peek into Japanes...more
Julie
A very humourous and engaging book about travelling abroad.

Ferguson describes what he experiences as an outsider travelling in a homogeneous culture. He also touches on what it means to be a traveller and why he travels. I enjoyed his balanced approach about his encounters by including the range of experiences one has while abroad - the great, the horrible, the touching, and so much more.

Not only does he focus on ideas of travelling, Ferguson also includes engaging details about Japanese cultur...more
Tony Maxwell
Travel Writing At Its Best!


Hitching Rides With Buddha is an insightful, and at times hilarious account of Will Ferguson's journey hitchhiking the length of Japan.

While in Japan teaching English to students, he decides to follow the cherry blossoms as they come into bloom from Cape Sato on the southern island of Kyushu to Cape Soya on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. His travels, punctuated with boozy encounters with "salarymen" out for a good time, throws some light on the differences betwee...more
Renato
Ferguson take us to an unique travel across Japan from the Sata to Soyo. I enjoyed a lot this book, especially because I read while I am in Japan for a short stay. Definitely I agree with him about many aspects of the country, history and people. Have I lived in Japan in the past, it is nice to read a foreign (gaikokujin) view about this unique country (in good and bad sense). I also laugh a lot in so many parts that make almost impossible to mention a favorite one. The only drawback, if I may s...more
Mag
Somewhat in the same fashion as Winchester who walked from the most southern to the most northern tip of Southern Korea in search of an answer to Koreans’ amazing recent progress, Will Ferguson decided to hitchhike from the most southern tip of Japan- point Sata on Kyushu to the most northern one- Cape Soya in Hokkaido to find out what the Japanese were really like. He was following the Cherry Blossom front- sakura zensen- moving forward with it, challenging the notion that nobody will stop for...more
Lisa
Fantastic novel. An absolute must for anyone who loves to armchair travel, and anyone who loves Japan. Ferguson makes a great travel companion. He spares himself no embarassment as he hitchhikes his way from the bottom to the top of Japan, like a reverse-lazyman's-Alan-Booth thing. He gives just the right amount of insight on his travel through the country and the people he meets. He definatley delivers the funny. I was laughing out loud. I love that! There were some seriously touching moments t...more
Reina
This man can do me no wrong with this book, I got a few others hooked on it as well, his stories of his journey from south to north Japan by hitchhiking only to chase the sakura front are laced with wit and sarcasm that could easily but some Brits to shame :p

Ironically I read this book when I was travelling across West Japan and Shikoku from Tokyo, which proved to be a hidden bonus as I decided to retrace some of his steps from his book while I was reading and laughing like an idiot on the train...more
Katie
Jun 06, 2009 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Katie by: rough guide to japan
An interesting glimpse into Japan. However, this book needed more editing to whittle it down into the terrific book that could have been. Ferguson, who does seem like an ok guy, tends to showcase his personality in a manner that I find obnoxious. He shows us something, and then he tells us too with phrases along the lines of "I'm just that kind of a guy." Yes, we have picked up on that. Ferguson, don't be so insecure, you've got a great story here, just tell it. Still, recommended if you're inte...more
Sarah
This was such a fun read! I picked this up because I had read Happiness and enjoyed it very much. Now I think I'm fast becoming a Will Ferguson fan:) "Hokkaido Highway Blues" is really refreshing in the sense that it doesn't offer a clichéd view of Japan at all. It's very witty, insightful, thoughtful and highly enjoyable! It definitely makes you want to book a ticket to Japan straight away:o) This is one of the best travelogues I've read recently and would recommend it to anyone with an interes...more
Lynne
I've known of several young people who've gone to teach English in Japan. The author used that experience as his jumping-off point for a hitchhike through the country, even though "Japanese people never pick up hitchhikers." His cynical but funny sketches of the towns, countryside, and people who do in fact pick him up are revealing and gave me a much better sense of modern Japan than I'd ever had. It was a good time to read this as the cherry trees were blooming in D.C., because he was ostensib...more
Sparky
I started reading this before I ever went to Japan and was curious about the culture, and didn't get very far into it. This time around, after two trips to the land of the rising sun, this book seemed a lot less fictional (or rather, less exaggerated), instead it was like a great conversation with a fellow traveler about a place that you've been to. It really reminded me of the great things about a wonderful country (puzzling as it is sometimes), it made me laugh (a lot!), and I learned many thi...more
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Will Ferguson (born William Stener Ferguson) is a Canadian writer and novelist who is best known for his humorous observations on Canadian history and culture. His success as a writer can be attributed to an innate ability to view Canada much the same way an outsider would, as described in his debut book, the ironically named Why I Hate Canadians. Ferguson talks about this in a recent CBC radio in...more
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“...when you are constantly prevailing upon the kindness of strangers-as a hitchhiker must-it keeps you in a positive frame of mind. Call it Zen and the Art of Hitchhiking. The Way of the Lift. The chrysanthemum and the Thumb. Heady on beer and the sound of my own voice, the aphorisms spilled out unchecked.” 2 likes
“Deferring judgement to a later date resolves nothing and all you are left with is a box of jumbled slides and a collection of knick-knacks and odds and ends. Here a face. There a sunset.” 1 likes
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