Like the 19th-century German-Americans who brought to the wild north of Japan the idea of Central European beer, brewed in this brooding brick building for decades, I followed the North Star across the country, and I walked from the 31st parallel to here, the 43rd. My walk was to end at the 45th, but I had long been troubled by the aesthetics of walking across Hokkaido northbound, from Sapporo to Wakkanai. It’s a line which almost actively avoids the island, scampering along its western edge, never acknowledging that Hokkaido’s — and Japan’s — main axis isn’t south to north but west to east. And so we toasted Polaris with skewers of grilled liver and oversized bottles of beer, shouldered our rucksacks, and turned east, towards the Kurils.
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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.