“You walked here from Kagoshima?” she asked, and laughed. I sat on the counter, swinging my legs, eating a plate of breaded oysters with a pint of lager for my second breakfast.
“‘No Japanese could do that since we lost the war. Our spirits shrank with defeat, you see. We’re not big enough for such a journey,’” Alan Booth wrote in The Roads to Sata, quoting a man he’d met on his walk.
We were in the last grocery store before Nemuro, some 60 kilometers away. I showed her and her young colleague my old military map of Tōhoku and Hokkaido, and they studied it with wonder. “No Japanese could do what you’ve done,” she said, and Booth stood with us then, cradling his own pint, radiant, alive.
She was wrong, of course, but what did it matter.
The land grew wilder and more beautiful by the step, almost overbearingly so, and it emptied of people for the last time. Dusk caught us on a remote stretch of coastline, Palau and Papua across the flat, steel blue expanse. White horses grazed on the meadows of estuaries in solitude, pictures from a children’s book. When the fading light reduced the world to flat silhouettes, a herd of five stags came out on a ridge, and we laughed at the overblown absurdity of it all, a Laibach music video at the end of the world, closer to Russia now than to Kushiro.
Prev. ← Day 128, August 18
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.