A Conflicted Journey in the Author’s Adoptive Home

Alan Suemori
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

In 1977, British writer Alan Booth decided to walk the length of Japan stretching from Cape Soya on the northern tip of Hokkaidö to Cape Sata on the southern rim of Kyüshü. Thirty-one years old at the time, Booth had already lived in Tökyö for seven years, but yearned to experience a more authentic connection with his adopted home that went beyond the opaque urbanity of his daily life. His 2,000-mile journey would take 128 days to complete and provide the backdrop for his first book, “The Roads to Sata,” that would record the complexity of being an outsider in an insular and narrow world that was often lost in translation.

Born in Leytonstone, London, Booth majored in drama at the University of Birmingham, where he studied Nöh theatre and directed Western classics replanted in Japanese settings. He moved to Tökyö in 1970 and lived in Japan for over twenty years, writing film reviews, teaching English and punching out popular essays that covered everything from kokeshi dolls to the namahage goblins of Akita Prefecture. It is his travel book, however, for which he is best remembered.

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