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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hike through Japan, refreshingly judgement free, 9 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan (Origami Classroom) (Paperback)
I read `The Roads to Sata' shortly after reading Will Ferguson's `Hokkaido Highway Blues'. The comparisons are obvious - Ferguson hitching south-north and Booth walking north-south - giving their insightful and humorous commentary along the way. Booth's physical achievement was clearly the greater. As for literary achievement, I enjoyed them both in their own ways.

In contrast to Ferguson's more up-front opinionated style and laugh-out-loud humour, Booth's style is more subtle, the insights more nuanced, the humour drier (some might say slyer). You'll find no sweeping generalisations in Booth's account, little overt criticism or praise of Japan, and little analysis or moralising. Rather, he prefers to let the narrative do the talking - the sights and sounds, the small daily incidents, the people he meets along the way. A good example is the perceived xenophobia of Japanese society. Booth's epic walk is peppered with incidents which show that Japan can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for a foreigner (e.g. the name calling by kids in the street, the ryokans which become mysteriously `full' when he tries to get a room), yet it also has many examples where the locals showed him great kindness and concern for his well-being (e.g. lifts offered, which he had to decline) Is Japan xenophobic then? Well, yes and no. You decide. Like any other national stereotype, it's not black-and-white. (I suspect though that if he had made the same journey today, 30 years on, his references to the despoilation of the landscape would have been far more critical.)

Booth ends his walk little clearer on what he really thinks of Japan and the Japanese than when he set out. After three visits there, I'm in a similar position, though I can't wait for my fourth.
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