These Walking Dreams: Day 35 (May 17, 2017)

East Iya, Tokushima โ†’ โ›ฐ Mount Tsurugi โ†’ Kawai, Tokushima

Map of Tokushima Prefecture with route between East Iya and Kawai highlighted. ๐Ÿ—บ Open map in GaiaGPS โ‡


The door of a barbershop with a stencil of a small land crab, its pincers modified into a blow-dryer and a pair of scissors. ๐Ÿ“ East Iya, Tokushima


A cascade of weirs on a mountain river.

Three human-sized dolls dressed up as village women sit on the ground around a wooden telephone pole.

Three dolls lie on the ground in front of a house, while a fourth loiters by the road.

The face of a doll with a towel wrapped around his head in the Japanese manner.

A doll sits at a low worktable with mugs and various tools laid out on it.

A Japanese woman, Ayano Tsukimi, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and simple country clothes, sits on a chair in front of her house, with several of her dools visible behind her. ๐Ÿ“ Nagoro, Tokushima

I had known of Ayano Tsukimi before I walked up to her porch on a cold mountain morning. Sheโ€™s the star of Fritz Schumannโ€™s The Valley of Dolls, a documentary about her epic art project of populating Nagoro, her village in the upper Iya Valley, with dolls of the departed and the dead.

We warmed ourselves by a charcoal fire with two of her human neighbors, and she brought me an exquisite breakfast of mountain vegetables she had picked. โ€œThatโ€™s my 86-year-old father, weeding the gardenโ€ she said, pointing to one of the few living humans in the landscape.

Nagoro was a dayโ€™s walk from the nearest train station, and it was like a hundred villages I had walked through, but she had turned what is otherwise only hinted at by collapsing houses, abandoned cars, and overgrown orchards, into a brutal and explicit statement: that this is a dying land, thereโ€™s nothing anyone can do about it, and it will die with her.

She showed me winter pictures of Nagoro: snow up to her knees, her old house heated by a wood-burning furnace. The turquoise waters and the emerald mountains can never compete with convenience stores and central heating.

I walked out of Nagoro in the company of ghosts, and I cried until I couldnโ€™t cry anymore, then I walked until I couldnโ€™t walk anymore, into the clouds crashing on the summit of Mount Tsurugi.


Two beverage cans and a plastic bottle are placed to cool in a bucket of spring water.

A human-sized doll with a cigarette in its right hand looks straight at the camera.

Two dolls sit on stools in a field, drinking beers.

Two dolls wearing hard hats guard a closed bridge leading to an abandoned schoolhouse.

An old canvas briefcase with a picture of the Space Shuttle is placed next to the right hand of a doll. ๐Ÿ“ Nagoro, Tokushima


Clover and small white-pink flowers grow on the moss-covered trunk of a tree.

A man walks up a path in dense bamboo grass, with rolling forested hills visible behind him.

The grassy summit of a mountain under clouds so low they almost touch the ground.

A man stands on a rock with a path along a mountain ridge visible behind him. This is Mount Tsurugi, the second highest point of Shikoku.

A lunch menu of vegetables, grilled fish, fruit, tea, and sake arranged on a table. ๐Ÿ“ Mount Tsurugi, Tokushima

A grilled trout, a hot stove, mountain vegetables, a cup of warm sake, fresh oranges: just what the doctor ordered after walking down from the summit of Mount Tsurugi in the cold rain.


A cloud-filled, forested valley runs towards the horizon under very cloudy skies. ๐Ÿ“ Mount Tsurugi, Tokushima


A mountain road completely covered by rocks from a landslide, making it impassable to vehicular traffic. A very small yellow excavator is parked on the rocks. ๐Ÿ“ Nakoyama Plateau, Tokushima

Next โ†’ Day 36, May 18

Prev. โ† Day 34, May 16


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.