The Roads to Sata
By Alan Booth. Viking, 1986, 281 pp.
To travel on foot is a lure for many people, whether they are pilgrims following in the footsteps of those who preceded them, or adventurers setting out on their own paths. As Patrick Leigh Fermor observed in his classic, A Time of Gifts, "On foot, unlike other forms of travel, it is impossible to be out of touch.”
Alan Booth clearly felt the attraction of this kind of journey. An Englishman who had lived in Japan for 7 years, was married to a Japanese woman, and spoke fluent Japanese, he set out in the eighties, at the age of 30, to walk from the northernmost cape of the northernmost island of Japan, Cape Soya, to the southernmost cape of the southernmost island, Cape Sata—the entire length of Japan.
In The Roads to Sata, he gives us a kind of journal of this journey, which took 128 days and covered some 3,300 kilometers. He walked on back roads and, if necessary, on highways, he stayed in country inns, he consumed quantities of beer (“foot gasoline,” as he calls it), and he had encounters with, he estimates, some 1200 people: from businessmen to housewives, from priests to cyclists, and from farmers to sumo wrestlers—with whom he actually wrestled. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t win!)
Along the way, he meets an elderly man, who tells him: “A country is like a sheet of paper; it’s got two sides. Read More
TraveLit--A blog about travel literature.
Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.
The Roads to Sata
Collected and Introduced by Walter Magnes Teller. Sheridan House, 1958, 1995, 401 pp.
“I was born in the breezes, and I had studied the sea as perhaps few men have studied it, neglecting all else,” wrote Joshua Slocum, the first man to circumnavigate the globe on his own. Sailing Alone Around the World is his engaging account of that extraordinary 3-year journey, which takes in the world but is dominated by two characters: Slocum and his 37-foot sloop, the Spray.
After introducing us to both of these characters in his opening chapter, which details his rebuilding of the antiquated sloop—revealing at once the absolute thoroughness of the man and the strength of the boat—Slocum begins his journey. The year was 1895, he was 51 years old, and at this point in his life, says the Slocum scholar Walter Magnes Teller, he was a “defeated” man. He was unable to acquire a new ship, he was unsuccessful as a writer, and he had lost his beloved first wife. “He owned almost nothing except the home-made Spray.”
But no sense of defeat emerges from this exuberant book. Read More
Thinking more about the stories antiquarian maps tell. This map of Spitsbergen, 1625, is illustrated with scenes of whaling as well as bear and walrus hunting. The detail below shows one of the illustrations--a Seamorce, or, as we would say, a walrus.