Kanoya, Kagoshima โ†’ Kihoku, Kagoshima

Map of Kagoshima Prefecture with authorโ€™s route from Kanoya to Kihoku highlighted. ๐Ÿ—บ Open map in GaiaGPS โ†’

Looking up at broken rain roofs.

A red Lancia Delta HF Integrale in a garage.

Closeup of the emblem of the Lancia showing four elephants.

The Lancia peeks out from a row of garages and shops.

A very rusty railing. ๐Ÿ“ Kanoya, Kagoshima

After a week in the deep countryside, Kanoya is a dizzying metropolis of well-stocked supermarkets, excellent bathhouses, and a red Lancia Delta HF Integrale peeking out of a garage in what must be a Sisyphean battle against rust and decay in the hot and humid climate of Kagoshima. But a closer look reveals the vacuum of rural Japan: a main shopping street where every pane of the rain roof is broken and where every other store is boarded up and abandoned.

Beautifully stacked cedar logs by a flowering azalea bush. ๐Ÿ“ Kanoya, Kagoshima

Ordnung muรŸ sein when it comes to stacking logs of cedar at a farmhouse north of Kanoya, but really, why wouldnโ€™t you stack logs like this?

Towels and shirts drying on a rack, one of the towels shows Ayrton Sennaโ€™s McLaren from a 1980s Grand Prix race.

Large bags of oranges for sale on a shelf.

A sign behind a fence shows the distance to the nearest town, and also to Tokyo, 1540 kilometers away.

A new rain ditch trails off into a forest. ๐Ÿ“ Kihoku Ichinari, Kanoya, Kagoshima

A garden of azaleas visible through the gate of a country house.

A statue of the Buddhist monk Kลbล Daishi, dressed in sandals and a straw hat, carrying a tall walking stick.

A small tree in white bloom at the entrance of a house. ๐Ÿ“ Kihoku Ichinari, Kanoya, Kagoshima

A Lawson convenience store on a pitch black evening, lit up and seen from across its parking lot. ๐Ÿ“ Kihoku, Kagoshima

The Japanese convenience store is one of the perfect expressions of human commerce. You donโ€™t necessarily appreciate them until they thin out in the countryside, often separated by a dayโ€™s walk or more. They are a grocery store, a copy shop, a bank, a post office, a public bathroom, and a rest area all in one, open 24 hours a day, with cold beer, hot coffee, and bland but nourishing food. They can also be frighteningly lonely places, like this one in the village of Kihoku Ichinari, in the complete darkness of a Japanese evening, with not a soul on the streets after sundown, and not a sound to be heard. I walked in from the cold and the dark and sat by myself for an hour and a half in the dining area, drinking tea, a creature without language or history, then I disappeared into the night.

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.