Kawanabe, Kagoshima → Makurazaki, Kagoshima

Map of Kagoshima Prefecture with author’s route between Kawanabe and Makurazaki highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A small deciduous tree growing close to a pair of cedars in a cedar forest. 📍 Kawanabe, Kagoshima

On my early morning walk into the old samurai town of Chiran I wondered about these two trees. Are they friends, pesky neighbors or so phylogenetically distant they don’t have a word in common? The timescales we inhabit are certainly distant.

A fierce-looking statue of a guardian at a Shinto shrine. 📍 Yaseo Falls, Kagoshima

Looking up at trees blooming in various colors against a blue sky.

Detail of the intricate woodwork of a sliding door on the porch of a teahouse. 📍 Chiran, Kagoshima

A twisting road lined with stone lanterns.

A man walks down an avenue of cherry blossoms in the afternoon sun. 📍 Chiran Peace Museum, Chiran, Kagoshima

Cherry trees line the roads which lead to the Chiran Peace Museum, the site of a former kamikaze airfield, for kilometers. I had been here before but not in the spring and I came at peak sakura on a perfect sky blue spring day. The museum milks the connection between kamikaze and sakura for all it’s worth but it treats these teenagers and young men sent to be butchered on their way to Okinawa as a poignant natural phenomenon instead of as a grotesquely nihilistic wartime act. The boys knew, though, and if you read their letters it’s perfectly clear that they were utterly dismayed. They then boarded their Zeros and took off for their deaths on days like this, in the spring of 1945, rising above the vibrant tea fields of Chiran, never to land alive.

Manicured rows of tea bushes, with the perfectly symmetrical cone of Mount Kaimon on the horizon. 📍 Chiran, Kagoshima

And then you leave Chiran and emerge into the tea fields which glow in the afternoon sun and Mount Kaimon is just there, a single Pillar of Hercules marking the southern end of the Japanese mainland, rising a kilometer from the sea like a brooding pyramid. Beyond is nothing but quirky islands and the open ocean, to Peru, to Antarctica, to every volcano on the Pacific Rim.

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.