Walking the Kiso Road: A Modern-Day Exploration of Old Japan

William Scott Wilson. Shambhala, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61180-125-5
Samurai expert Wilson (The Book of Five Rings) leads a tour through time and space in this engrossing memoir of his three-week hike in 2013 along a 60-mi. stretch of road that weaves through central Japan. The Kiso road, an ancient trade route that is currently home to the modern Chuo railway line, is punctuated by 11 post towns that provide overnight lodgings and the opportunity to step “backward in time.” Wilson invokes the great philosophers who “walked to become more alive.” Opening with the Upper Kiso, the hike unfolds in a series of vividly described meals and historical tidbits about local deities such as Horse-Headed Kannon. Each chapter cites elevation at the outset and concludes with the number of miles covered that day plus hiking time. All along the route, food outranks politics as a subject of conversation, with the Yugawa sake distillery a highlight of the journey. Those familiar with hiking in Japan will smile at the mention of the ubiquitous roadside Jizo statues and the sign that reads, “When it sees trash the mountain cries.” While the book would profit from a map to help readers better understand the terrain, it provides a useful trail guide for hikers, while armchair travelers can enjoy Wilson’s hike vicariously. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/2015
Release date: 10/13/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-4285-5
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