Yamajiro, Tokushima โ†’ East Iya, Tokushima

Map of Tokushima Prefecture with authorโ€™s route between Yamajiro and East Iya highlighted. ๐Ÿ—บ Open map in GaiaGPS โ†’

A paper military map of South Japan held down by a teacup, with the route of These Walking Dreams highlighted with a fountain pen; the tip of the pen is visible in the corner.

Detail of the instructions on the same map of South Japan. ๐Ÿ“ West Tokuzen, Tokushima

The instructions on my map of South Japan say DESTROY WHEN NO LONGER NEEDED, and when a map has been walked out of, it is no longer needed.

A highway crosses a mountain river on a high concrete bridge, with a village on the other side and forested hills in the distance.

A vine bridge above a rocky mountain river peeks out of the riverโ€™s heavily forested banks.

Sign on a vine bridge which says: Here is the exit. Please go around to the other end for entry. ๐Ÿ“ Iya Vine Bridge, West Iya, Tokushima

Deep in the gorge of the Remote and Inaccessible Iya River, right next to a four-story parking garage built in high Yugoslav style, one can observe an ingenious piece of 12th century civil engineering: the one-way vine bridge. Stepping on it from the left bank will trigger a voice in perfect American English, announcing from the forest that THIS IS A ONE-WAY BRIDGE. PLEASE TURN BACK. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION. Further progress in the wrong direction will summon a man waving furiously, enraged that someone would dare think of crossing this wild bridge of medieval outlaws and renegades without dropping 500 yen into a box on the proper side.

I smiled, turned back as well as I could, and didnโ€™t stop for the next 20 kilometers, until I was free of parking garages, one-way bridges, and people driven from the city in tour buses to look at simulacra of medieval tales for money. High up in the forest, as the evening turned into a cold and ink-black night, the real Iya Valley began.

The flash suggests a forest at night and highlights a set of guardrails which spell NIะ˜, the same way as the logo of the band Nine Inch Nails. ๐Ÿ“ East Iya, Tokushima

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.