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Roads of Oku: Travels in Japan: Narrow Roads of Oku ...

Describes a series of road trips in Japan begun in spring 2004.

Roads of Oku: Travels in Japan

Dennis Kawaharada

Inspirations for Travel in Japan...

The Poetry of Matsuo Bashō: The poet Bashō with his companion Sora traveled to northern Honshū in 1689 and wrote his classic travel narrative Narrow Roads of the Deep North (Oku no Hosomichi). We first followed in his footsteps on our road trip in 2005, stopping to see some of the famous places he visited, then continued to explore his route in subsequent trips. By 2018, we had visited and photographed practically all the places he mentions. That year, I finished and published a translation of the narrative entitled Summer Grasses, Autumn Wind (available in print at; I also marked the route on a Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Roads of the Deep North).” (Below: Departure. “Friends lined the road to bid us farewell and stood there for as long as they could see the shadows of our backs.” From an illustrated scroll of Oku no Hosomichi. Yosa Buson (1716–1784). Itsuo Art Museum, Ikeda, Ōsaka)

The Woodblock Prints of Utagawa Hiroshige and Keisei Eisen: Another inspriration for our travels was the nineteenth-century woodblock prints in Utagawa Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō and Hiroshige and Keisai Eisen’s Sixty-nine Station of the Kisokaidō (Nakasendō) depicting travel on the two main roads between Edo and Kyōto. We drove along the Tōkaidō and Nakasendō in spring 2008, and in subsequent road trips. By 2020, we had visited and photographed almost all the stations on the two roads and posted the photos in Scenes Along theTōkaidō and Scenes Along the Kisokaidō (Nakasendō). We also started visiting and photographing the places depicted in Hiroshige’s Collection of Prints of Famous Places in the Sixty+ Provinces. (Below: “Satta Peak,” Station 16. Yui, depicts travelers descending toward Yui along a cliff called Satta Pass, with Suruga Bay and Mt. Fuji in the background.)

Other Historic Roads: We also went to photograph scenes along two other historic roads, the ancient Yamanobe-no-Michi in Nara Prefecture and the pilgrimage routes known as Kumano Kōdō (Old Roads of Kumano).

My Grandparents: My grandparents emigrated from Hiroshima Prefecture to Hawai'i in the early twentieth century. Their stories are told in “Child of History” (in Roads of Oku: Journeyʻs in the Heartland) and in Makisō (1887–1953) and Harumi (1899–1999) Kawaharada. My mother, Matsuko Kawaharada (21925–2020), took us to visit the ancestral hometowns and my grandparents’ families in Mukaiharamachi, Gōnomura, and Tomomura in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1970.

Fleeting Scenes: Road Trips in Japan is a more recent website at with photos of road trips from this website and more recent trips. The website contains photos from the 46 prefectures we were able to drive to. See Touring the Prefectures.

Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Matsuo Bashō's Narrow Road to the Deep North

For a translation of Matsuo Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi, see Narrow Road to the Deep North, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Penguin Books, original edition 1966; reprint 1996).

For notes by Stephen Kohl, see Notes.

Bashō and Sora departing from Senju

For a Google Map of Bashō's journey, with stops and routes, see Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North"). The translations and notes in the markers of the map are from a new translation: Summer Grasses, Autumn Wind: a Translation of Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi, with Photographs of Landscapes and Traces of the Journey, scheduled for publication in 2016 or 2017 at

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