Highway Blues
by Will Ferguson
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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Will Ferguson was teaching English on remote Japanese islands when he decided to hitchhike through Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun celebrates Sakura Zensen, or the Cherry Blossom Front on a national level. The blooms begin to show in the south and move north as Spring arrives. Ferguson wanted to follow this annual phenomenon which is "tracked with a seriousness usually reserved for armies on the march." He compiled his adventures in a book titled Hokkaido Highway Blues.

The resulting travel narrative is witty and insightful. Ferguson is a Canadian who has no problem being mistaken for an American, especially when he looks like a fool. He has a wonderful sense of humor that carries the book well.

Ferguson has a keen eye for cultural comparison. His travels into the true heart of Japan reveal a side of the country not usually shown to the world. Some of the truths aren't flattering to the Japanese and other observations are quite amusing. The result is a clear picture of the Japan not shown on tourist brochures.

The drivers that pick up Ferguson are just as colorful as the landscape. The actual act of bumming a ride is illegal, yet there was always someone willing to assist the author. Ferguson provides little portraits of many Japanese citizens he met along the way.

Ferguson is quite familiar with his host land. He offers helpful lessons on Japanese legends, religions and shrines. His extensive research adds educational value to this amusing narrative.

Hokkaido Highway Blues is lengthy and detailed. Read it when you have time to devote to an entertaining analysis of this culture. Will Ferguson's book is the perfect vacation for the armchair traveler. You'll learn a great deal about Japan without ever stepping on a plane.