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Book Review: The Roads to Sata

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth

I read The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth in June 2015 and February 2016

In The Roads to Sata, the author Alan Booth tells the story of his walk across the length of Japan, from Cape Soya on the northern tip of Hokkaido to Cape Sata on the southern tip of Kyushu.

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth

Alan Booth is a resident of Japan, living in Tokyo with his wife, and can speak the language. But Tokyo is not really Japan. The Japanese country-side is very different. Booth wants to experience the Japanese country and decides to walk the entire length of Japan.

Eagerly he sets off, walking during the day, drinking beer in the evening. The book has been called a pub crawl through Japan, and I can see why. Every night he visits a bar in the new town he is staying at, and he often has a stop during his walks for a beer.

During his many beers he meets many interesting people and recounts for us many conversations he has with locals. He seems specially interested in how foreigners are greeted and treated by the local population. His fluency in Japanese also lets him listen in on conversations in Japanese, hearing what people are really saying of him.

Booth tries to travel the back roads as much as possible, to visit the small towns and villages, stay in ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), avoid the cities and business hotels. He meets a Japan that doesn’t see so many foreigners, with the problems and prejudices that follows.

Ryokans featured heavily in The Roads to Sata

Staying in a ryokan in Kyoto

At the end of the trip it seems he has grown tired of the whole project, and his writing suffers from it. He seems tired of walking, tired of being looked at, tired of people believing he can’t eat fish or use chop sticks. His mood turns sour, his writing not so detailed. Where in the beginning he write long chapters about short walks, in the end the towns and villages he passes barely gets a mention. I felt the first half of the book was the best, from there on it lost something.

The roads to Sata gives a vivid and interesting picture of Japan. Booth has a way of getting to know people, to strike up conversation, and the drunken converstaions through the book often gives a truer insight into the real Japan. Although the last half is not as good as the first half, the book is very good, worth a read, and gives an interesting and enjoyable account of Japan.

For more to read concerning Japan, see my Books from Japan page.

For more books, see my Book Reviews Page.

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