Jōbōji, Iwate → Takko, Aomori → 📍 Hakka Pass → Lake Towada, Akita

Map of Tōhoku with author’s route from Jōbōji, Iwate to Lake Towada highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS →

A wooden statue of a one-armed man-turtle next to a vending machine.

Detail of the statue showing a fish skeleton, also carved in wood.

The statue from another angle. 📍 Jōbōji, Iwate

A local artist carved it,” Mr. Takamori said, after he had pulled over in his truck and handed me two energy gels in silver foil packs, an impromptu support team for this Tour de Tōhoku. With a chainsaw,” he added. I drank my coffee and admired the skeleton of the one-armed man-turtle guarding the last road to Aomori prefecture. It took him two days.” He drove off. I finished my coffee and walked out of Iwate.

A road snakes into a hilly, agricultural landscape.

Closeup of a tobacco field, with one plant in pink bloom.

Three women with the backs to the camera tend to tobacco plants.

Rows of brown tobacco leaves drying in a shed. 📍 Jōbōji, Iwate

Tobacco is a rather beautiful plant, and in the hills between Iwate and Aomori, the fields were in bloom, and the harvested leaves were drying in greenhouses in long braids. This being Japan, the fields were tended to not by children, of which there were none, but by elderly ladies on little stools, wearing sun hats and long gloves, dwarfed by the plants.

A derelict house with most of its walls missing and its roof badly damaged.

A bright red branch of an evergreen plant.

A wall calendar from the year 2009 seen through a window.

The kitchen of an abandoned house, showing appliances and kitchenware strewn about, with the author reflected in the screen of a television set. 📍 Takko, Aomori

There is no culture, and the men don’t talk,” Ōhashi Aki had said on a distant Matsuyama afternoon, and the men didn’t talk because they were gone, and the women and the children were gone, too. No nuclear clusterfuck here, and no mountain valleys unable to resist the gravity of Osaka, either, this was just the dead end of Tōhoku melting back into the earth, the calendar unturned since 2009, rice bowls left on the table. In the afternoon, in a hot and dusty village where braids of garlic hung on abandoned houses, a loudspeaker played exercise music to a dead street, vines creeping in through the windows, and I walked, and perhaps the nature was beautiful.

Panorama of a green, hilly landscape. 📍 Takko, Aomori

A green field under a blue sky, very closely resembling the classic Windows 95 wallpaper called Bliss. 🖼 Takko, Aomori

Braids of garlic drying on the outside wall of a house.

Bamboo grass grows through the wall of the parking garage of an abandoned house.

Looking up through the tiled, translucent roof of a tunnel.

Looking down on the same tunnel from above. It looks like a large, metallic tube. 📍 Takko, Aomori

A brown Japanese toad crosses an asphalt road. 📍 Hakka Pass, Akita — 🐸 Japanese toad (Bufo japonicus)

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.