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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excrutiangly funny tramp thru Japans contemporary reality, 6 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
Tramping past yet more concrete polyhedrons on Honshu's bleak northern coast as the mist drips from his frozen nose, or slithering down a muddy mountain in sweat-sodden socks in Kyushu's steambath summer, this master of irony shares with us each blister as we accompany him on his eccentric - and essentially pointless - quest to walk in the footsteps of two longgone minor heroes of Japan. His deadpan retelling of encounters on the way, the irony of the abyss between the romanticised past and the awful contemporary urbanised present, caused this reader to laugh indecently loudly on a Tokyo train. This is a brilliant and exquisitely personal travelogue in which Booth, periodically restored by beer and hot baths, opens up for us a Japan that few outsiders experience. With lugubrious fatalism, he details his dogged but doomed search for the romantic past behind the concrete present of Japan in the 1990s. A very funny read from a man who knew his territory and was - despite all the odds - deeply attached to it. Wallow in it - loudly - wherever you are.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Booth: a guarantee!, 5 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
Wad my first time reading a book in english (as I could not find the italian version) and, despite the difficulties with the language, I couldn't stop reading it.
I-ve just devoured it.
Ok, as you can "see" my english is not really improved much but I can't say that about my uderstanding of everyday life in Japan.
This is not just a travel book. It a guide, a companion, a collection of encounter with a wide variety of people which helps us to understand how Japan is far from us yet so "near": the kindness, the unexpected, the beauty,...
Just read this please.
:)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is not the destination..., 14 Jun. 2013
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
...but the encounters along the way,, usually over beer, that make the journey significant. The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan (Origami Classroom), which I read a year and a half ago, was my introduction to the works of Alan Booth. It is the account of his journey - walking every step of the way - across the four principal islands of Japan, from the very northern tip of Hokkaido to Cape Sata, at the southern tip of Kyusha. (He exhibits his droll wit by describing his insistence never to take a vehicle, even over short distances, as his "Protestant Walk Ethic"). It was a long walk of 2,000 miles. Given his fondness for beer (he never mentions, ever, drinking water), he notes in the present volume that one reviewer called The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan (Origami Classroom) a "...2,000 mile pub crawl." In the process though, Booth reveals that he is an incisive observer of the Japanese, and a Japan that is beyond the experience of virtually all non-Japanese speakers. He had come to Japan in 1970 to study Noh theater, married a Malaysian of Chinese decent, and decided to stay, becoming fluent in the language as part of the process. This would be his last work, published posthumously. He died of cancer in 1993.

Booth's last work is composed of three parts. Each part is structured around a hike of two to four weeks. The travelogue part covers sore feet, welcoming to rude ryokan innkeepers, and, for anyone thinking of duplicating these trips, a LOT of rain. But then, at least he is not camping in it. Even by the late `80's, there is still the general assumption of many he meets that he cannot speak (or read) Japanese because he is a gaijin (foreigner). But his wanderings are not random; he structures them around a historical personage or event, and thus the "looking" (or, as Proust would say, the "searching") for the impact of the past on the present.

In the first two trips, he went to "extremes" of sort. Although he did not visit the northern most island, Hokkaido, this time, he did hike the Tsugaru peninsula, in far northwestern Honshu (which is the largest island). It is May, and cold, though the cherry blossoms will soon be abloom. He decides to follow the travelogue of Dazai Osamu, who journeyed in this area in 1944, during the final year of World War II for the Japanese. Osamu was certainly a strange character, who attempted suicide on four occasions, and succeeded on the fifth. Booth, in his humorous way, debunks and disputes much of Dazai's account. Still, many in the region recognize him for placing this remote peninsula on the "tourist map." The second trip is in the far south, on the island of Kyushu, in the heat of August. Booth wanted to retrace the steps of the defeated army of "the lost cause," at the same time of year that it had actually occurred. It was the last "civil war" on the main islands of Japan. Saigo Takamori, much romanticized in the region, led the revolt of the last of the samurai class. Swords against the guns of the central government, with predictable results. Saigo did his own version of Mao's "the long march", and it taxed Booth to keep up with the schedule. The third trip was in the middle, starting from Nagoya, which had to be completely rebuilt after WW II bombing. (Fittingly, the town is located between Kyoto and Tokyo (Edo, as it was once called). Booth is chasing down the remnants of a much earlier conflict, which commenced in 1180, and lasted five years. This is related in The Tale of the Heike, a constant companion of sorts. The winners might write the history, but Booth demonstrates that it is the losers that write the literature. After the Kyoto faction was defeated, the remnants fled into the remote mountainous regions of the "spine" of Honshu... one of the town's names, Taira, is probably derived from a leader of the Heike. Many of the houses in this region have roofs that are thatched, and steeply pitched, because of the snow. But those that can repair them are dying off, with no replacements, and Booth predicts that, say, by now, only a few at designated "tourist spots" will remain.

The book is replete with wise observations. A chapter that resonated with me is entitled "Pickled Culture", and it reflected my one experience with the Noh theater. And by someone who had come to Japan to study it. He says: "...(a Noh production) is about as comprehensible to a cross-section of modern Japanese society as an oral rendition of Beowulf in the original would be to a cross-section of modern British society."

Finally, what he calls the "niggling" in his gut was felt when he crossed the spine of Honshu, which would be diagnosed as cancer, 27 months later, and to which he would succumb. A keen observer, with a humanist heart, and I wish we could have shared a beer. He is missed. 5-stars, plus.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 11 Mar. 2015
By 
Peter Munn (Chambery, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
What an eye for detail! Three hikes through villages in rural Japan. This is a great way to get a taste of Japan and the Japanese far from cities. Lots of humour and self mockery and frequent use of hot springs and beer. Interesting encounters with B&B landladies. How about this ' The leading edge of an early typhoon brought in from the choppy sea a string of smoke-like clouds that pressed down on the land and sheeted the sodden hillsas if they were furniture in an empty house'
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5.0 out of 5 stars An easy 5 stars, 2 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
Just like his first book (The Roads to Sata), this book is excellent. Alan Booth is an excellent travel companion. Despite having an amazing grasp of Japanese culture and language, he isnt a show off. His observations are always insightful and his humour subtle and self-deprecating. A stand-out book. My only regret is he didn't write more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 6 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
I recommend anyone who has an interst in knowing more about the fascinating country of Japan to read this book. Alan Booth was very knowledgeable about Japan and writes in any easy style.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent preparation for a trip to Japan, 25 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan (Kodansha globe series) (Paperback)
Bought this after reading his first book and wasn't disappointed. His style of writing keeps you interested without being too try hard.
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