Namegawa, Ehime → 📍 Kuromori Pass → Kasagata, Ehime

Map of Ehime Prefecture with author’s route between Namegawa and Kasagata highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A French man in a shirt and a waistcoat and a Japanese woman in a cardigan sit outside their house and prepare to eat breakfast.

A plate of fried lily bulbs, a bowl of rice, and a pair of chopstcks on a breakfast table. 📍 Namegawa, Ehime

Life in the city is hell,” Simon said, and he couldn’t be accused of not walking the walk. A carpenter from France, he was restoring the empty village house he had moved into with Saori, his wife, in the cold mountains above Matsuyama. She was a Hokkaido girl, and her grandmother, who had sent her the yurine lily bulbs we were having for breakfast, was from even farther: she had grown up in Karafuto Prefecture, known since 1945 as Sakhalin Island, Russia. We sat outside — water a pipe from a mountain stream — we ate our rice with Hokkaido chopsticks carved with Ainu motifs, and I admired them for choosing the hard, beautiful life that the country around them has been abandoning for decades.

The ground is carpeted with bright pink flowers under an azalea tree in a back yard.

A small rice planting tractor parked in a garage with a mannequin’s head on a shelf behind it.

Mountains reflected in a flooded rice field under a cloudy sky. 📍 Tōon, Ehime

Rays of sunlight pierce the clouds in the distance as seen from a mountain road, outlining a city and the sea beyond.

📍 Kuromori Pass, Ehime

All afternoon I walked up a relentless series of switchbacks, black clouds swirling above the Kuromori Pass, and when I turned for a final glance at Matsuyama, the clouds parted like a torn seam, and the evening light turned both the city and the Inland Sea into rippling gold foil, and I remembered the oranges and the coffee, the air a silk blanket. The mountains were calling, and I walked into the clouds, into a cold evening rain.

Three battered Buddhist roadside deities in front of heavily logged hillsides. 📍 Kasagata, Ehime

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.