Inagawa, Hyōgo → Kameoka, Kyōto

Map of the Kansai region with author’s route between Inagawa, Hyōgo and Kameoka, Kyōto highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A dirt road snakes between summer fields under a blue sky with big white clouds; there are small wooded hills in the distance. 📍 Nose, Osaka

Every dying village and abandoned house in Japan is accessible on a perfectly surfaced asphalt road, but here, in the three hours I spent walking across a spur of Osaka Prefecture, was a dirt road running parallel to a stream, the first I walked on since I had left Kagoshima. Under starched white cumuli, crickets chirping in the long grass tickling my bare ankles, I reeled from the memory of summer walks, a handful of slides all projected at once. But there were no poppies to pindot the land, and the fields were flooded rice paddies, not the gold of wheat in early summer.

A Japan Airlines cargo container used as a shed in someone’s backyard.

Two Japanese swords displayed on a pair of antlers on the top of a grocery store shelf stacked with cups of instant noodles.

A huge trash fire burns in a furnace on a yard heaped with various piles of trash. 📍 Nose, Osaka

A road sign, in the lower left-hand corner of a picture shot against a deep blue, lightly clouded sky, shows the way to Central Kameoka.

The calligraphic picture of a wild boar, made up of the characters 有楽荘, on a wooden board. 📍 Kameoka, Kyōto

I had only been aware of zoomorphic calligraphy in Arabic script, but it can apparently be done with Japanese kanji, too. The characters which make up this wild boar, 有楽荘, are not an obscure term for the animal, as one might hope, but simply the name of the countryside pension on the outskirts of Kameoka where the sign was hung. Perhaps not as masterly as Farah Behbehani’s rendering of The Conference of the Birds, but any zoomorphic calligraphy is better than none.

The glow of a city in the night sky is visible over low hills beyond flooded rice paddies.

A train pulls into a station at night, against the lights of a city and low hills on the horizon. 📍 Kameoka, Kyōto

Similarly to how an island will cast a halo of driftwood, seabirds, and currents, visible to the gifted navigator long before he spots any land, great cities give themselves away with light. This is how I first saw Erbil after walking for a month across the Zagros, a great glow beyond the white-gold fields of Kurdistan, and this is how I now saw Kyōto, a white-gold glow over the low hills which separate the city from the rice paddies of Kameoka. Night trains and tree frogs were the only sounds, and when I woke up the next morning, a woman walking her dog greeted me with a can of cold coffee.

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.