Mountains beyond mountains

Walk forever?” a shopkeeper named Mr. Takamori asked me on the evening of July 18, 2017, in the village of Jōbōji, in north-east Japan. I wasn’t, not then, I was only walking from one end of Japan to the other, which isn’t forever, but I can’t say his question hasn’t remained with me ever since. Five years later, in the endless, pale blue light of a summer day in Estonia, I keep thinking thinking thinking about its implications.

The middle part of the field diary I kept on that journey, my walk across the mountainous interior of the Japanese mainland, is now online. You’ll find it here, under Chūbu and Tōhoku.

If you only have time to go through a couple of entries, allow me to suggest three.

  1. June 11, my traverse of the volcano Hakusan.
  2. July 5, my journey on foot and inside a police car across the nuclear exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  3. July 19, walking across forlorn bits of Akita and Aomori, in north-east Honshu.

There’s one part of These Walking Dreams left to publish: my walk across Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, where I was joined by my brother Gabor. It’s coming next month, on August 22.

In March 2021 I traveled to Chitral, a long valley in Northern Pakistan, where I came across a number of remarkable wooden statues, purportedly from 19th-century Afghanistan. They are from a region then called Kafiristan and now called Nuristan, just across the border from Chitral. I generally don’t care much for dusty old things but for some odd reason these statues captured my imagination like few other objects have.

I decided I would go back to photograph them properly, which I did in May of this year, carrying a photo studio in a rucksack up the hill to the grand stone house of their current owner, a rather complicated man. I thought that would be it, that perhaps I would have some prints made, maybe a photo-book.

But these odd, unspeaking, angular things have a peculiar gravity. Carved of cedar and painted black, at once otherworldly and very specifically human, they have taken me down a rabbit-hole of unsolved murders, shifting identities, and stories of even more complicated men. Expect to hear more in the coming years. Until then, a preview.

Before I leave you to dreams over Google Earth, I must tell you about the project which is much closer to shipping than what may come of these wanderings and wonderings in the Hindu Kush. The final draft of my next book, the one about that medieval house in Kyōto I helped re-thatch in the autumn of 2019, is now in the gifted hands of Ákos Polgárdi, the graphic designer who also made The Wilds of Shikoku, my first book. In the years since he made that book Ákos has become rather sought after, so it isn’t going to be quick but it is going to be beautiful. We expect to have a prototype by the late autumn of this year, and the book shall be finished and on sale by no later than the summer of 2023 (with the usual 2020s caveats about global pandemics and Russian invasions).

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a fine day. I’ll be back on August 22.

Subscribe to the I 💜 Wasting Ink Mailing List to receive these brief updates on my work.