Being an expat living in Tokyo, I love exploring my adopted city. If I had more free time, I wouldn’t mind exploring the countryside as well. I have even had fantasies of walking the entire length of Japan, although I do not think I have the stamina or strength to indulge in such an endeavor. However, there are some people who have.
New Zealander Craig McLachlan is one such person. Inspired by Alan Booth's "The Roads to Sata" in which Booth walks the length of Japan from the northernmost point of Cape Soya in Hokkaido to the southernmost point of Cape Sata in Kyushu, in 1993 when McLachlan is 31 years old, he walks the entire length of Japan in 99 days from the opposite direction, starting south in Kyushu, then keeping towards the coast of the Sea of Japan as he makes his way to Hokkaido. The reason he gives in undertaking such a task is simple, "To go in search of the real Japan". On his nearly three- month hike, McLachlan goes through four pairs of boots, giving the name to the title of his book. The kanji on the cover of the book, 靴四足 (kutsu yon soku) also translates to “four pairs of shoes” or “boots” in this case. As to his finding the “real Japan”, that’s for you, the reader to decide.
Fortunately for McLachlan, he can speak Japanese and has no trouble communicating with the local population, even though he suffers his share of animosity and outright prejudice. But he says the kindness he’s shown outweighs the negative experiences. He’s offered rides on many occasions but politely refuses, explaining that he wants to complete his entire journey on foot and accepting a ride would be cheating. Some of the people whose rides he turns down come back and bring him food or drinks and tell him to “ganbatte!” – to do his best. Others offer him a place to spend the night and some even walk with him for a short distance. However, there are times when the weather is so bad that McLachlan does accept a few rides but he always returns to the spot where he had stopped walking.
I imagine it’s no easy feat, (pun intended), to walk an entire length of a country--even a country as small as Japan or New Zealand. I doubt that my feet would think either country were small if I even attempted to walk either one. But at least I don’t rely on driving to the neighborhood market anymore as I did when I lived in the States. However, on my days off I try to walk around a different neighborhood a week in my adopted home of Tokyo. It may not be the length of the country, but it will have to suffice for my pair of legs.~by Ernie Hoyt