One thing I always get asked is why I chose to come to Japan and my usual answer is that I came here because I wanted to try my hand at teaching and because I have an appreciation of Japanese history and culture. The truth is that is only part of why I really ended up living here.
What I want to write about today is a book that really ignited my fascination and love for Japan and helped me finally make the decision to apply for the JET programme and leave my family and friends behind as I hopped on a plane bound for Tokyo nearly three years ago.
The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth was written in the late 1970s and describes the author’s journey from the most northern part of the four main islands at Cape Soya on Hokkaido all the way down to the most southern part of Kyushu at Cape Sata. It took him 128 days of walking through every type of weather before he finally reached Cape Sata and the book looks at all the people he met along the way and his thoughts about Japan as a country.
Unlike a lot of other authors who try to cash in on the ‘authentic’ Japan experience but have only actually lived year for one or two years Alan Booth ended up living in Japan for about twenty years until his death at the early age of 40. As a rest he manages to capture a lot of the things that make Japan, well… Japan.
It also helps that his writing style is pretty hilarious without falling into the trap of trivializing Japan or its people. He’s just as likely to make fun of himself as he is to make a joke about a Japanese person or an aspect of Japanese society that he finds amusing. It’s a fine line to tread but one that he expertly weaves into his writing as he travels through Japan.
The Roads to Sata is also refreshingly honest in addressing the less wonderful aspects of life in Japan which is something that many people don’t want to know or hear about. Seeing that he did this trip in 1977 and the book came out in 1985 it’s important to note that in that time Japan has of course moved on and improved in many ways, but at the same time there are a lot of problems that are still prevalent here today that Alan Booth experienced all those many years ago.
So if you’re looking for a book that will give you a true view of Japan and will give you a glimpse into the lives of the people who form the backbone of Japan rather than the hordes of people who flock to the big cities in search of jobs then The Roads to Sata is certainly one of the best books to read. If you’re anything like me then it might also inspire you to discover the real Japan and approach your time here with an open mind.