Take a trip to old Japan with William Scott Wilson as he travels the ancient Kiso Road, a legendary route that remains much the same today as it was hundreds of years ago. The Kisoji, which runs through the Kiso Valley in the Japanese Alps, has been in use since at least 701 CE. In the 17th century, it was the route that the daimyo (warlords) used for their biennial trips - along with their samurai and porters - to the new capital of Edo (now Tokyo). The natural beauty of the route is renowned - and famously inspired the landscapes of Hiroshige, as well as the work of many other artists and writers. Wilson, esteemed translator of samurai philosophy, has walked the road several times and is a delightful and expert guide to this popular tourist destination; he shares its rich history and lore, literary and artistic significance, cuisine and architecture, as well as his own experiences.
©2015 William Scott Wilson (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
There's not all that much travel narrative in audio format, and I'm a bit picky, so thought this one seemed promising -- it was.
If you're looking for comedic asides, a la Bill Bryson, this ain't that. Closer to Theroux, although Wilson knows the area, rather than observing as a detached stranger; indeed, some of the folks he runs across he considers friends, even if he has not had any contact with the person recently. In a nutshell, the story contains observation of the scenes along the route, including what has changed since he was there long ago, as well as historical background, often going back centuries, along with reports of discussions with locals. Wilson succeeds in integrating all that quite well, although I did get a tad lost a couple of times with the history, which turned out to be no big deal.
Here's the one feature that folks have commented upon, which even I felt a bit "here we go again" by the end: we're given the detailed menu of almost everything he ate and drank. Such as ... "after my bath, I reported for dinner, where we were served broiled chicken in a soy glaze, thinly sliced eggplant strips in miso sauce, pickled radish and onion, our choice of white or brown rice, coffee cake, beer and green tea."
Brian Nishii does a terrific job with both the Japanese, and occasional Chinese, words. However, on a few occasions I wondered about his pronunciation of English ones, as though he were guessing (wrong). Those few times aside, he was a very good fit for the material.
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