Kay's Reviews > The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth
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's review
Aug 03, 07

bookshelves: travelogues, japan, nonfiction
Read in April, 2005

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 observations and insights never pall. There's humor, here, too, particularly as many of the Japanese assumed he spoke no Japanese, and so were rather unbuttoned in their remarks made in his presence. One especially ripe scene takes place in a ryokan. The owner insists that he can't accommodate Booth because he (Booth) doesn't speak Japanese.... but, of course, the conversation is taking place in Japanese. Priceless!

One aspect of the book that really resonated for me was the inclusion of numerous fragments of haiku. Masters of the form such as Issa and Basho, of course, were great travelers. Booth's keen appreciation for that tradition brought depth to his account.
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