📷 The author on the 92nd day of his walk. Photo by Tadashi Honma.
These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary I kept on a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.
It was originally published on Instagram under
#roadsfromsata, where I continually posted pictures while I was on the road, accompanied by entries on what I had seen, experienced, and felt.
The diary is republished here in expanded and revised form, with hundreds of new pictures, greatly improved maps, and slightly retouched entries.
🗺 The author’s route across Japan, from south-west to north-east
Except for four ferry crossings, two toll roads, and one nuclear exclusion zone1 — marked in grey on the map above — I walked every step of the way.
I began walking in Kagoshima City, in the south of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, on the morning of April 13, 2017. In April and May I crossed Kyushu, then Shikoku, the smallest of the main islands, and arrived on Honshu, the largest, on May 24. In the next two months I crossed three of Honshu’s five regions: Kansai (South-Central Honshu), Chūbu (Central Honshu), and Tōhoku (Northeast Honshu).
📷 Gabor Orosz (left) and the author on the last day of their walk across Hokkaido
On July 24 I arrived in Hakodate, in the south of Hokkaido, the northernmost main island, where my brother, Gabor, joined me. Together, we walked across Hokkaido and reached Cape Nosappu, the easternmost point of the Japanese mainland, on August 212.
Alan Booth’s The Roads to Sata, the exquisite account of a similar walk undertaken four decades previously, in the summer and autumn of 1977, served as the main inspiration for my journey — even if our paths barely crossed. He largely followed the coast, stayed in country inns, and walked from north to south, while I preferred the mountains, slept in sheds, shrines, and parks, and walked from south to east.
A more explicit connection between Booth’s work and mine is The Wilds of Shikoku, my first book, in which I wrote about following in the exact footsteps of another of his journeys, a five hundred kilometer walk across Shikoku — Booth in May and June 1983, me in January and February 2019. Booth’s account of his own journey, “Roads Out of Time”, was published in the anthology This Great Stage of Fools, and both his account and mine were edited by Timothy Harris.
I also drew on Fukada Kyūya’s One Hundred Mountains of Japan, this odd mixture of baedeker and literary nonfiction from 1964, which is as much about the etymology of Japanese geographical names as about the practical aspects of climbing Japan’s mountains. Along the way from one end of Japan to the other I climbed or traversed 12 of Fukada’s one hundred mountains, and made an aborted attempt on a 13th, the volcano Ontake.
Japanese words, geographical locations, and personal names are transcribed into English using the Modified Hepburn romanization. Japanese names are written in the Japanese order, the family name first and the given name second. With the exception of the names of Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido, Honshu, and Kyushu, spelled in the international style, long vowels are marked with macrons (ō, ū).
Geographical names are based on data from Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, and other sources. Google Translate and Renzo Japanese were used to clarify transliterations.
Maps are plotted in Gaia GPS, using data from OpenStreetMap. Overview maps on this index page are displayed on Gaia GPS’s Gaia Topo, overlayed with slopes data from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, while day-by-day maps are displayed on Thunderforest Landscape.
Special thanks to the people who maintain the marvelous infrastructure of this mountainous and seismically unstable archipelago, the roads, tunnels, and footpaths without which I could barely have walked a kilometer, let alone 4,300; to those who went out of their way to help me, a stranger from a country most of them had never heard of, without any thought of reward; and to Natalie Kallay, my wife, who has always encouraged and supported my wanderings.
I’m happy to answer any and all questions you may have about my walk. You can reach me, in English and Hungarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The ferries were across Kagoshima Bay (Day 7), the Hōyo Strait (Day 23), the Akashi Strait (Day 42), and the Tsugaru Strait (Day 103). The tolls roads were a section of the Kōbe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway across the Great Naruto Bridge (Day 39), and most of the Hakusan Shirakawa-gō White Road (Day 61). The nuclear exclusion zone was the one around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Day 84). They are marked with the emojis ⛴, 🚗, and 🚓 in the index, and explained in footnotes on the day-to-day pages.↩︎
Of these 131 days I spent 121 walking. I took four rest days in April and May, when I was still getting used to the rigor of walking every day, then in early June I traveled to Korea for six days to renew my Japanese entry permit. I carried an iPhone, which logs walking distance automatically, and I also plotted my path separately on OpenStreetMap. From these two sources I estimate that I walked around 4,300 kilometers and gained about 120,000 meters of elevation.↩︎