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Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,779 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
Hitchhiker Will Ferguson experiences Japan in the most unusual way when he treks the length of the country from south to north by thumb.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Soho Press (first published 1998)
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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
Se incontri il Buddha lungo la strada, non ucciderlo. Tira fuori il pollice. Chissà, potrebbe anche offrirti un passaggio.

Giappone, Giappone... tanto amato quanto malvisto, tanto idealizzato quanto pregiudicato.
Il diario di viaggio di un canadese nel Sol Levante è un facile specchietto per le allodole (i nippofili), decisamente facili all'entusiasmo specialmente, si sa, quando ci sono di mezzo i sakura, ormai divenuti simbolo di quanto di poetico il Giappone possiede. Il pericolo di una simile l
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
May 29, 2008 Juli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2015 fenrir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

William "Will" Ferguson è uno scrittore canadese, nato in Fort Vermilion, Alberta in Canada. Anche informandomi sul suo conto non sono riuscita a capire bene come sia finito in Giappone ad insegnare inglese, visto che sembra aver fatto studi di cinema all'università e niente che giustifichi un viaggio del genere nel paese del sol levante.
E' vero che lui stesso ammette di essere approdato in Giappone senza sapere assolutamente niente della lingua, ma scoprire che non aveva nemmeno le basi per in
May 13, 2008 Ainsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 16, 2012 Kkraemer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2009 Libby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 27, 2007 k8inorbit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of travel books, people interested in japan
Shelves: japan, non-fiction
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
Tasha Swinney
Mar 09, 2013 Tasha Swinney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, japan
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
Aug 20, 2014 Hollowspine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Un ironico scrittore canadese decide di percorrere tutto il Giappone dal sud verso il nord seguendo lo sbocciare degli alberi di ciliegio, i sakura (che i giapponesi festeggiano facendo pic nic sotto le loro fronde). Alla domanda del giornalista, alla fine del viaggio (che non vi dico come va a finire) "Perché ha voluto fare questo viaggio?" Lui risponde: "Volevo conoscere i giapponesi come individui e non come una massa senza nome e senza volto." Eh già perché, come dice il titolo del libro, Wi ...more
James Eckman
Ferguson snarks his way up Japan following the cherry blossoms in this mostly humorous account of hitchhiking. Sacred cows like Japanese exceptionalism, lack of racism, etc. are cheerfully roasted. Traveling anywhere as an obvious foreigner off the main tourist routes in Japan can lead to bizarre experiences. A fun read once sort of thing.
Nov 10, 2014 Reina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 put 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
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
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
May 13, 2014 Randee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I totally enjoyed this memoir of hitch hiking the length of Japan, south to north, intent on following the cherry blossoms. There were passages that made me laugh out loud. Mr. Ferguson is everything I like in a travel writer: interesting observations, a sense of humor, a bit of snarkiness, a sense of wonder and most importantly, the knack for making the reader feel like they are on the same journey with the writer. This is the first book I've read of his but it won't be the last!
Tom Barker
Apr 30, 2014 Tom Barker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 30, 2016 Marci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
This has been my backup book for longer than I want to admit.

I would like to suggest that finishing it feels a little sad. I've felt like Ferguson was a guy I know, who picks up telling his particular stories kind of wherever we last left off, the last time we got together for a couple of beers. I always like seeing him but if something else comes up, it's not a big deal. Now that the book is over, I will miss catching up with him.

So there it is. Ferguson's rambling narrative style worked for m
Michael Blackmer
Will Ferguson has written a wonderfully funny travel memoir of his journey to follow the Cherry Blossom Front along the length of Japan. For the humor alone I would recommend this book. Ferguson has added enough history and human interest stories about the places he visited to give the book more substance than just a diary of his journey.
May 21, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laugh-out-loud dry wit, deeply honest introspection, and a nostalgically melancholic tone define Ferguson's account of a personal journey from one end of Japan to the other. Ferguson decided to hitchhike the length of Japan's west coast as a result of a drunken announcement to his coworkers that he intended to follow the cherry blossom blooms up to the north. Once he sobered up, they declared him just short of a national hero, (luckily for us) forcing him to actually undertake the journey. Throu ...more
Jun 24, 2016 Arianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet."
Ho pensato che questa citazione di Jhumpa Lahiri fosse fosse eccezionalmente calzante per descrivere questo libro, non solo perché si tratta di una sorta di relazione di viaggio ma anche, e soprattutto, perché abbiamo viaggiato insieme all'autore per tutto il Giappone.
Anche se un po' vecchiotto (pubblicato nel 1998) "Autostop con Buddha" ci mostra un Giappone diverso da quello che siamo abituati a vedere, lontano dalla
Apr 26, 2015 J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the time of writing the book Will Ferguson was a Canadian EFL teacher working in Japan. He sets out from Cape Sata the Southern most point of Japan to travel to Hokkaido in the farthest Northern tip. The purpose of the trip is ostensibly to chase the progress of the sakura or cherry blossoms traditionally a time of festivities and drinking of copious glasses of sake in the company of said cherry blossom trees. He decides to hitch hike for most of the journey as he believes that that is a more ...more
Dec 07, 2011 Jeane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
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
Jun 25, 2013 Melody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 03, 2013 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: red-queen
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
May 05, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
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
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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.” 3 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.” 2 likes
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