Yamakawa, Kagoshima → ⛴ Kagoshima Bay → Sata, Kagoshima

Map of Kagoshima Prefecture with author’s route across the bay between Yamakawa and Sata highlighted. 🗺 Open map1 in GaiaGPS (A,B,C) →

The author reflected in the window of a ferry.

Mount Kaimon rises in the distance as seen from the ferry. 📍 Yamakawa→Nejime ferry, Kagoshima Bay

Three men eat lunch by their pickup trucks in a parking lot with an amazing view of Kagoshima Bay and Mount Kaimon. 📍 Nejime, Kagoshima

The Ōsumi Peninsula may only be a 40-minute ferry ride across the bay but it’s another world, more tropical and far more remote than Satsuma. On the yellow sand beaches you can find oranges in the flotsam. It is the end of the Japanese mainland: 40 kilometers south of the ferry port of Nejime is Cape Sata.

Freshly planted, flooded rice fields overlooking the bay and Mount Kaimon.

An old poster of Cape Sata on the ground. 📍 Nejime, Kagoshima

Two women having lunch at a picnic table, one of them waves at the camera. 📍 Nejime, Kagoshima

In May 2016, when I walked across the Zagros Mountains from Hamadan to Erbil, I was fed and bathed and housed in every town and village on the way. In Japan, you have to fend for yourself but tell that to these two lovely ladies from Toyama. I had met them on the ferry from Yamakawa to Nejime, and when they spotted me on the road to Cape Sata a few hours later, they waved me over and plied me with food like an Iranian or an Iraqi would have. Sweet oranges and chocolate and sweet potatoes and rice tea were then stuffed into my rucksack and they sayonara’d away like fairies. For the next three hours I floated down the road on clouds of ice cream and chocolate, carried forward in the warm subtropical sun by sugar and undiluted human kindness.

Detail of a rusty car with a sticker saying TURBO.

A red vending machine at the edge of a forest. 📍 Sata, Kagoshima

Manhole cover showing the lighthouse at Cape Sata, the southernmost point of the Japanese mainland.

Densely wooded hills in the evening light.

A rest stop with two benches looking out on the bay and Mount Kaimon. 📍 Sata, Kagoshima

On the last road to Cape Sata, a boy on his way home from school came up to me, a man twice his height and three times his age, and invited me for a walk in a comically fecund garden. We had no words in common but we did have giant subtropical leaves to play drums on, and then he waved goodbye and I walked into the last hills of Japan, watching footprints in the mud in the flooded rice paddies, the cone of Mount Kaimon in the distance growing purple and blue in the sunset, and signs warning against truculent monkeys.

Road sign pointing to Cape Sata, 12 kilometers away. 📍 Sata, Kagoshima

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.

  1. This was the first of seven days when I didn’t walk every step of the way. It would have been perfectly possible to walk across Kyushu straight from Kagoshima City, but I liked the idea of beginning my journey by first touching the end of the Japanese railway network in Makurazaki then climbing Mount Kaimon. The latter is a prominent and symbolic mark of the southern end of the Japanese mainland.↩︎