The peninsula fractured into a fractal of sub-peninsulas and the wind ripped the surface of the Inland Sea into raw denim. Across villages where I didn’t see a single soul, across other villages where the few people looked right through my gloomy and gaunt frame, across a roller-coaster of desolation I walked, delaying the inevitable. Booth had left no instructions for the roads between the village of Shionashi and the lighthouse at Cape Sada. I wanted to walk every last one of the peninsula’s bridleways and ruts and holloways, I may have been thirty eight years old but I still wanted to know everything and I still wanted to be everywhere, and at the turn-off to Kozaki I realized I would have to walk to my death, and then I felt peaceful again. In the spring sun and the vicious wind, past pink clouds of plums, I turned towards Misaki and the last of the roads to Sada.
How could anyone feel lonely here, on these windswept back roads, with whole teams of gods looking after them? The gods of retaining walls and shrubs and traffic mirrors, of orange trees and mailboxes, of earthworms and gnarly roots. Alone, perhaps, but never lonely.
Last kilometers call for animal sacrifice.
Shikoku narrowed to a needle’s point, its exposed spine deflecting the constant winds from the north towards the Pacific, and I meandered between the ocean and the Inland Sea in the throbbing, mournful drone of the wind turbines. I felt the spirit-world looking into me now, watching me as I tiptoed in the houses and slept by the gods of others, as I walked into the golden glow of afternoons which grew stronger by the day, and I rued every hurried, manic step, every curve in the road which took me closer to the lighthouse, beyond which lay nothing but the ink-black waters of the Hōyo Strait.
“Ten minutes from the lighthouse, and the end of my journey, I met an old man with a sack on his back. He grinned at me as we came close together, and as we passed, he reached into his sack and handed me an ice lollipop. ‘What’s this?’ I gasped. ‘Candy,’ he said. And he walked on grinning, while I stood in the road and laughed. He might have given me a beer as well. He must have been one of the Seven Lucky Gods, and so had all the world in his sack,” Alan Booth wrote in the last passage of “Roads Out of Time”.
Thirty six years later, two hours from the lighthouse, and the end of my journey, I met an old woman with a sack of oranges in the basket of her scooter. She braked as we came close together, and as we passed, she reached into her basket and handed me two oranges. I had no time to gasp
“Dekopon,” she said. “The sweetest orange. You must eat!”
And she scootered off, while I stood in the road and laughed, then I opened the beer I had stashed in the chest pocket of my smock.
“Ahead […] lay the blue hills of Kyushu,” Alan Booth wrote, and I could see them now, the eroded molar of Mount Futago to the northwest and the foothills of Mount Sobo to the southwest, and in front of them stood a small grove of plums in bloom, and I walked into the cold light of dusk for the last time.
Past the lighthouse, out of the forest and into the howling wind, I stepped on a rock and listened to the waves crashing below. Lord Byron would have swum across but it was the end of my journey. On another planet, from another century, the factories and cranes and oil tanks of Ōita appeared close enough to touch.