Looking for the Lost

Looking for the Lost – Journeys through a Vanishing Japan
Alan Booth

Cover: Looking for the LostThe perennial classic “Looking for the Lost” tells about rural Japan as the author retraces the steps of famous people before him on three different journeys.

The first journey “Tsugaru” describes Booth walking in the steps of Dazai Osamu, in a journey back to the writer’s home in Aomori prefecture in Northern Honshu. Dasai had walked there for three weeks and described his impressions in a book with the same name. The second journey follows “Saigo’s last march”, as Japanese hero and commander in the Satsuma rebellion, Saigo Takamori fled from surrender and returned to Kagoshima at the southern tip of Kyushu to make a final stand there. The third journey “Looking for the Lost” starts out from Nagoya and moves northwards through Gifu prefecture in an attempt to trace possible descendants of the clan of the Heike who were all but wiped out in the middle of the 12th century.

Throughout the book, Booth mixes historical facts with his observations about contemporary Japan and muses about various subjects. On all his journeys he is walking through the countryside, obstinately refusing any other means of transport. He mostly stays on small roads and often stops for a beer or two at local liquor stores. Talking to the locals and staying at traditional ryokan provides him with new friends as well as unique opportunities to broaden his knowledge of Japanese life outside the big cities.

Alan Booth (1946 – 1993) was born in London. Throughout his life, he was interested in theatre, and moved to Japan in 1970 to study Noh. There, however, he soon began writing and worked for Macmillan Press. He wrote numerous articles and two books about his hikes through Japan, “Looking for the Lost” being his second book. He died from colon cancer in 1993.

Although more than 20 years old, this book is a classic and a must-read for everybody interested in the “real” Japan. You can get it from amazon!

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