Nagoro, Tokushima β†’ Niiya, Tokushima

Map of Tokushima Prefecture with author’s route between Nagoro and Niiya highlighted. πŸ—Ί Open map in GaiaGPS β†’

Three human-sized dolls.

A closeup of the eye, made of a button, of a similar dolls.

Another doll in a Japanese summer kimono stands in a gymnasium, with other dolls in the background.

A pile of unfinished doll heads, with wooden supports for shoulders and spines.

Doll children in a cart, covered in snow.

Dolls representing an older man and a woman, similarly covered in snow.

Another two dolls sit outside on a bench in the snow.

Two more dolls sit by the side of a house, their backs to each other.

A doll stands by its bicycle in the snow. πŸ“ Nagoro, Tokushima

240 dolls, 29 people β€” back to 27 after our meager but luxurious breakfast of partially frozen venison on crackers, with ice-cold coffee β€” the storm was over, the sun was out, my insides had turned to permafrost, and we slid into a golden-blue world, ice crystals in our wake.1

πŸ“ Nagoro, Tokushima

Our small but not insignificant contribution to the advances in micromobility.

A small roadside deity in a red jumper, about the size of a can of beer, stands on a shrine next to an actual can of beer.

πŸ“ Sugeoi, Tokushima

The kind of beer-to-body-volume ratio MΓ‘tΓ© PetrΓ‘ny would approve of.

Dried hydrangea flowers on a sunny winter day. πŸ“ Sugeoi, Tokushima

Hydrangea are usually noticed and photographed in their June splendor, when their petals span the spectrum from cobalt blue to heather purple, and so I did not know that in the winter they turn a lovely shade of golden tan, glowing in the mountain light against the snow, ghosts of rainy seasons past.

A panorama of forested mountains whose higher sloper are rocky and covered in snow.

Sunlight filters through the vertical trunks in a cedar forest.

Looking down from above, a man, the author, makes its way across a stream, balancing on rocks.

πŸ“ Somewhere on Mount Miune, Tokushima

This was definitely not a path Alan Booth had walked, and when we had to retrace our steps we performed an act he had definitely not performed, far closer on the spectrum to rock climbing than to walking on country roads.

Closeup of an 8-track cassette.

An 8-track player built into a larger speaker, in what appears to be a shed.

πŸ“ Kubo, Tokushima


A house raised on stilts stands in a steep forest of vertical trunks.

Two dilapidated microvans by the side of the road in beautiful afternoon sunlight.

πŸ“ Ochiai, Tokushima

One of my side projects on this journey is to photograph interesting Japanese cars for a number of people who are supporting the trip and the subsequent field report. On a scale of one to ten where one is a junkyard and ten is an episode of The Fast and the Furious, the Iya Valley would rate a solid two. Solid, because Honda microvans.

Schoolchildren in exercise clothes run along the side of a country road, with the entrance of a tunnel in the background. πŸ“ Shimose, Tokushima

You don’t consciously realize the complete absence of children in rural Japan until you see them again. When we rounded a bend, and with no warning faced a group of these most elusive of creatures, we realized that we had come across more Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) than human children since we had left the sea.

A roadside cafΓ© in a bend in the road lit by the afternoon sun.

Looking at the sunlit exit of a tunnel from inside the tunnel.

A man with a white rucksack, the author, walks down a country road. πŸ“ Shimose, Tokushima

The afternoon sun lit up the road with a radiance that was almost dense enough to touch, and we floated in the light, lightweight and drained, then the sun sank behind the mountains, and the valley turned into an icebox under a black sky.

A very small van drives down a very narrow country road in a valley, with mountains on the horizon lit with alpenglow. πŸ“ Kyōjo, Tokushima

Two ceramic cats stand behind a sign with many spelling and grammatical mistakes. πŸ“ Kyōjo, Tokushima

An apology for a spelling mistake where spelling mistake itself is the spelling mistake is quite possibly the apotheosis of Japanese English.

A sling on a system of cable suspended above a dark river in the night.

πŸ“ Niiya, Tokushima

Shikoku Field Diary was written on the 500-kilometer walk across Shikoku in January and February 2019 that became the subject of The Wilds of Shikoku, my first book.

Additional photography on this page by Gyula Simonyi.

  1. Here is a comment by one of our readers who followed our journey in real time on Instagram: thought of you all! - am reading a novel which takes place in 18th century China and came to a line describing a painting called Deep Snow in Mountain Passes, Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). β€œTriangular mountain peaks, some encrusted with frozen trees, filled the scroll from one end to the other. Tiny Travelers, overwhelmed by their surroundings, appeared lost in a world enshrouded in snow.” From City of Ink by Elsa Hart.β†©οΈŽ