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Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan by…
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Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan (1998)

by Will Ferguson

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5151719,696 (3.95)9
  1. 00
    The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth (Jannes)
    Jannes: Walking or Hitchhiking? Westerners traversing Japan through somewhat unconventional means. Both are great reads for anyone interested in Japan or travelogues in general.
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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
one of good travelogue that i have.. technically its not exactly a travelogue but it was fun reading the book. got many insights of Japan and Japanese people, would love to be there and experience some aspects as mentioned in the book. Good fun read. ( )
  _RSK | Jan 26, 2016 |
This book looks as if it were the one who hitchhiked from Kyushu to Hokkaido. I bought it used but now it's looking loved, which is fitting because I quite enjoyed the book.


School enkai
You'll laugh, you'll cry--
Kiss inchi-man en good-bye

While that came to be WF's symbol for the hanami, I think it can symbolise Japan all around. It's such a social culture geared torward going out as there is really no room to socialise in the home, and it's not that going out it expensive in and of itself, but it all adds up.

This book also has going for it what Roff Smith's Cold Beer and Crocodiles did--it's made me curious to see more of a place, in this case Japan, than I'd initially dreamed of, but we'll see. I'm thinking of travelling around northern Japan before I leave. I didn't last time and this second chance is probably the last chance, so we'll see.

You will find very little greenery in Japanese cities, true. But you will also find very little of Japan in most Japanese cities.

1000% agreed. I'd always said that Osaka didn't feel very Japanese until I went to Tokyo, which is so western it's not even funny. But now after having been to Fuji-san and Kyushu, Osaka is back to being barely Japanese. That's not bad and as I've said before, I love Osaka with all my heart and can't imagine living anywhere else in Japan, but at the same time I must admit I don't feel I'm getting as much of a Japanese experience as I could be. I loved the futsu train, both on JR and Hisatsu Orange from Kagoshima to Sendai and through Kumamoto to Nagasaki--the small towns, the coast, the ekibens--they just don't exist here. But then again what is Japan? I have no desire to hitchhike the country from end to end, but it was the first place I ever hitchhiked. (Mom/Dad, if you're reading this--it was 3 1/2 years ago so clearly I survived--and I wasn't silly enough to do it alone :) )

One of my fondest memories of the first stint in Japan was hanami in Himeji, which Rebecca and I went to soon after my return from Australia. It was also Japan at it's prettiest and I'd love to chase the sakura from Sata to Soya, but I think I'd do it from the comfort of futsu, I really would.

We talked about Japanese food for the rest of the way, agreeing wholeheartedly that foreigners can't possibly eat pickled plums or fermented beans or raw fish or horseradish

ARGH! I forever seek to ban my students from asking "What kind of Japanese food do you like?" and "Can you eat raw fish?" because you think they'd know by now that 90% of gaijin can and do love sushi. With natto it's bit more hit and miss, thank god my studentd don't see fit to ask about umeboshi, but you'd think by now the novelty in asking us this would have worn off?

I speak Japanese the way a bear dances. It's not that the bear dances well that impresses people, it's the fact that the bear dances at all. While I haven't gotten as fed up as WF did re jozu desu ne, I get close. Yes I am gaijin (never in my time in Osaka have I heard gaijin-san!), yes I can speak chotto Nihongo. We all speak a hybrid of it. It leads to us speaking to others who invariable end up asking what nani, onsen, ryokan, etc mean and it's only then we realise that these words haven't always been in our vocabularies.

I believe that one of the signs of maturity is a dislike of youth hostels. When I was nineteen, I loved the rapport and collective energy. At twenty-five, I was starting to find it all very annoying. And now that I'd entered my thirties, it was all I could do not to go around arbitrarily slapping people in the head.

A year in Australia I coped fine with hostels but when it came time to face a skeevy youth hostel on Sakurajima or check myself into a ryokan in Kagoshima, I went with the extra money. It's funny how cheapness can disappear at times when one has a salary.

He skipped a lot of my favourite places in the Kansai area, but he did make it to Amanohashidate aka Bridge of Heaven, which has been on my list for sometime, however after his description I'm not entirely sure it's worth the effort to get there, so we will have to see. It was nice to hear about Sado, which has been on my 'to see' list ever since I saw the Kodo Drummers. He didn't go to some of the areas in East Japan that I am most curious about; Hakone and Nikko.

When he was waiting for the leprechauns, the TAkashi's to pick him up he mentioned how they'd passed him a few times before committing--that was the story of Rebecca's and my afternoon when we were trying to get back to Hotel Sunnide from Kawaguchiko proper. We watched this couple watch us from the restaurant window and then circle us before agreeing to a ride--I'd love to know what they hope to learn from us by circling.

He also went on to mention how Juroku Rakan aren't mentioned in any of his guidebooks but then I came to learn over the course of the Australia trip that the best places aren't. I'm thoroughly temple and shrined out and have no desire to see Kamakura or Ise really, but carved deities could be way cool.

One shouldn't talk about the war in Japan. This is one of the first rules of conversation. Every family has a litany of sorrows and a closet filled with skeletons. As often as not, Southeast Asian skeletons.

Indeed, yet we always seem to end up doing this. I feel odd, almost untrue to myself if I mention having been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet at the same time I feel odd mentioning it to my students. It's like a no-win.

And as for his final realisation. That surprised me and it didn't. You're never through with Japan, it has to be through with you otherwise it keeps clawing back at you. It did inspire me enough to go Googling but I still haven't tracked down how he finally made it back to the mainland.

I have promised to lend this to Wiebke. May make it into a ring on its return as I think this is one I'd like to reread. ( )
  skinglist | Jan 7, 2016 |
Hitching Rides With Buddha, also is published as Hokkaido Highway Blues, but they are the same book.This was a fantastic look at Japan, away from the main cities, and provides real insight into the people and places of Japan. It was also quite funny. Will Ferguson, the author hitchhikes from the southern tip to the northern tip of Japan following the blooming of the cherry blossom. He is in Japan as an English teacher, and provide insight into the Japanese culture, and the people, various levels of introspection on himself, and shares some very funny moments along the way. Overall a fascinating book. ( )
  zmagic69 | Feb 11, 2015 |
I don't know if there's any way for me to be fully comfortable with white people who think they understand Japan. It rather impairs my ability to find this book fun, or great, or whatever. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
It took me a couple months to slog my way through this book, which sounds—falsely—like the beginnings of a bad review. To say that this is an easy book to get through or a quick read wouldn’t do it justice. I found myself having to step away after a few chapters just to absorb all the information. For someone preparing for departure to Japan, this was exactly what I was looking for—an exploration of the Japanese culture and where a gaijin fits in that culture. Ferguson does throw in the token bits about Japan that most readers of this book will already know—that Japanese people are smaller than your average North American, that you eat a lot of fish, etc.—but he also goes much deeper than that, waxing philosophic about Japanese history, culture, and foreign relations, as well as how all of these subjects influence one another.

I found Ferguson to be a very readable narrator and an equally talented writer. His self-deprecating wit when describing his own experiences acts as the perfect counterbalance to the many pages of factual information, and there were moments when his prose was so beautiful I reread it just for the experience. While there were a few times I cringed at his treatment of a particular person or situation, for the most part I was pleased by the respect he showed his subjects. The only major quibble I had with this book was the very abrupt ending; I turned the page to start the next chapter only to find there was no next chapter. This was disappointing because I really wanted to know what happened next, and the journey felt incomplete.

Overall, I would recommend this book to any gaijin looking to delve into the culture of Japan. ( )
  irishdancer2 | Jan 9, 2013 |
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All things considered, there are only two kinds of men in the world - those who stay at home and those who do not. The second are the more interesting.
Rudyard Kipling, as quoted in The Honourable Visitors
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Cape Sata is the end of Japan.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0676976980, Hardcover)

Originally published as Hokkaido Highway Blues, with limited distribution in Canada, Will Ferguson’s classic book about Japan, for all fans of the bestselling Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw.

With the same fervour they have for outlandish game shows and tiny gadgets, the Japanese go nuts each spring when the cherry blossoms sweep from island to island towards the country’s northerly tip. Will Ferguson was celebrating the event in the standard fashion. And after way too much sake he announced he would be the first person in recorded history to follow the blossom’s progress end to end. To make it a challenge worth doing, he’d hitchhike all the way: relying on the kindness of some very weird and wonderful strangers.

Mixing his penchant for biting observation with wicked humour, Ferguson starts at the southernmost tip of Cape Sata and heads north for distant Hokkaido. Whether he is doing the forbidden and not knowing it, or holding "conversations by non sequitur," it is a journey full of misadventures and revelations. The resulting travelogue is one of the funniest and most illuminating books ever written about Japan.


To make matters worse, I decided to hitchhike. Striking a heroic stance, I declared my intention to my Japanese friends to become the first person ever to hitchhike the length of Japan, end-to-end, cape-to-cape, sea-to-sea. This did not impress them as much as I had hoped.

“Why would you want to do that?” they asked, genuinely puzzled. “There is no reason to hitchhike. That’s why we built the Bullet Train.”

Others worried about my safety. “But,” I would argue, “Japan is a very safe country, is it not?”

“Oh, yes. Very safe. Safest in the world.”

“So why shouldn’t I hitchhike?”

“Because Japan is dangerous.”

And so on.

Now, I will admit that mooching rides across Japan is not a major achievement — I mean, it’s not like I paddled up the Amazon or discovered insulin or anything — but I am the first person ever to do this, so allow me my hubris.

When I left my home in Minamata City aboard a southbound train, I felt suitably bold with my backpack and muscular thumb.

“I’m going to hitchhike the length of Japan,” I told the man beside me.

He smiled and nodded.

“I’m going to follow the cherry blossoms.”

He nodded.

“All the way to Russia,” I said.

He smiled again, and soon after changed seats.
—from Hitching Rides with Buddha

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A Canadian describes his hitchhiking trip from south to the north of Japan

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