Onikōbe, Miyagi → 📍 Yunohama Pass📍 Hanayama Pass → Minase, Akita

Map of Tōhoku with author’s route from Onikōbe, Miyagi to Minase, Akita highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A narrow road leads towards rice fields and forested mountains.

A thatch-roofed farmhouse in a state of disrepair.

Lilies in bloom next to bright fields of rice.

Steps made of car tyres lead up a hill from the gate of a shrine.

Yellow leaves left over from autumn lie on the ground. 📍 Onikōbe, Miyagi

Panorama of a road snaking across heavily forested, steep hills.

A colorful striped snake, a tiger keelback, rests on the cables of a guardrail under large leaves. 📍 Hanayama Pass, Miyagi|Akita

The roads narrowed as the north deepened, the towns thinned out into lone farmhouses, and the prefectures of Tōhoku connected like the sutures of a skull. I walked from Yamagata into Miyagi, then from Miyagi into Akita, with more snakes than people for company. A mamushi lurked under an outdoor sink, shaking its tail theatrically, a jimuguri folded itself into a high frequency sine wave, and on the wire ropes of a guardrail, a rainbow-hued tiger keelback idled away the afternoon hours. The silence was beautiful, and complete. Into Akita, in the lengthening shadows, I drank from the water of god.

Steam from a hot spring wafts up from a valley.

Another hot spring flows from a rocky hillside.

The author lies in the bathtub of a small, simple hot spring.

Looking up at the sky, the Moon lights up clouds of steam in a forest.

A set of steps leads into the gorge of a hot spring. 📍 Minase, Akita

Past the fierce, snow-daubed flanks of Mount Kurikoma, the valley ran hissing and gurgling and steaming with thermal water, and my bathhouse for the night was a concrete tub in a shed. The underworld is never far in Japan, but I had no company for my daily nekyia except for a shirtless man with a fantastically asymmetrical face, who shuffled from his house to his shed at eight o’clock sharp, pocketed his ¥200, and put a padlock on the door. Under an indigo sky, I drank my glass of crepuscular Akita sake, then walked into the rice fields, under a Moon obscured by clouds of steam, and I felt that Tōhoku would never end.

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.