Off the Beaten Tracks in Japan: A Journey by Train from Hokkaido to Kyushu

Stone Bridge Nov. 2023. 308p. ISBN 9781611720822. pap. $19.95. TRAV
Dougill (Japan’s World Heritage Sites) embarks on a rail journey along the west coasts of Hokkaido, Honshu, and Kyushu to seek the country’s natural settings, historical sites, cultural interactions, and cuisine. He illuminates unexpected areas such as the Tottori Sand Dunes, which provides a mirage-like vista. Even though he’s lived in Japan for more than 30 years, he describes why he still feels like an outsider, albeit one who appreciates how the country retains its distinctive culture even while incorporating influences from elsewhere. Each chapter ends with information about the trains travelers would need to take to get to the sites he describes. The book also dips into memoir where Dougill offers his reflections upon his early years in Japan. He also drawns on travel narratives of Japan by various well-known authors as a way to contextualize his own impressions; most notably, he quotes the poetry of Matsuo Bashō.
VERDICT This travel narrative that is also part memoir seeks out and succeeds in spotlighting areas of Japan that few tourists will have known about.
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