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Hitching Rides with Buddha: Travels in Search of Japan [Paperback]

Will Ferguson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 8 2006
Originally published as Hokkaido Highway Blues, with limited distribution in Canada, Will Ferguson’s classic book about Japan, for all fans of the bestselling Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw.

With the same fervour they have for outlandish game shows and tiny gadgets, the Japanese go nuts each spring when the cherry blossoms sweep from island to island towards the country’s northerly tip. Will Ferguson was celebrating the event in the standard fashion. And after way too much sake he announced he would be the first person in recorded history to follow the blossom’s progress end to end. To make it a challenge worth doing, he’d hitchhike all the way: relying on the kindness of some very weird and wonderful strangers.

Mixing his penchant for biting observation with wicked humour, Ferguson starts at the southernmost tip of Cape Sata and heads north for distant Hokkaido. Whether he is doing the forbidden and not knowing it, or holding "conversations by non sequitur," it is a journey full of misadventures and revelations. The resulting travelogue is one of the funniest and most illuminating books ever written about Japan.

To make matters worse, I decided to hitchhike. Striking a heroic stance, I declared my intention to my Japanese friends to become the first person ever to hitchhike the length of Japan, end-to-end, cape-to-cape, sea-to-sea. This did not impress them as much as I had hoped.

“Why would you want to do that?” they asked, genuinely puzzled. “There is no reason to hitchhike. That’s why we built the Bullet Train.”

Others worried about my safety. “But,” I would argue, “Japan is a very safe country, is it not?”

“Oh, yes. Very safe. Safest in the world.”

“So why shouldn’t I hitchhike?”

“Because Japan is dangerous.”

And so on.

Now, I will admit that mooching rides across Japan is not a major achievement — I mean, it’s not like I paddled up the Amazon or discovered insulin or anything — but I am the first person ever to do this, so allow me my hubris.

When I left my home in Minamata City aboard a southbound train, I felt suitably bold with my backpack and muscular thumb.

“I’m going to hitchhike the length of Japan,” I told the man beside me.

He smiled and nodded.

“I’m going to follow the cherry blossoms.”

He nodded.

“All the way to Russia,” I said.

He smiled again, and soon after changed seats.
—from Hitching Rides with Buddha

From the Hardcover edition.

Frequently Bought Together

Hitching Rides with Buddha: Travels in Search of Japan + Beyond Belfast + Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada
Price For All Three: CDN$ 45.48

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Product Details

Product Description


Praise for Hitching Rides with Buddha:
“‘I laughed out loud,’ is what book lovers tell each other when they are lucky enough to stumble on an author with a gift for the absurd. Will Ferguson is just such an author. . . In his new book, Hitching Rides with Buddha, Ferguson continues to display a talent for wry self-deprecation and a giddy ability to see the ludicrous in, well, the ludicrous.”
Edmonton Journal

"Throughout his on-the-road adventures he dishes up huge but juicily presented quantities of Japanese religion, history and sociology. He’s also a wickedly witty travel guide, with a knack for dropping absurdist, out-of-left-field remarks that raise a smile or a belly laugh. . . . Hitching Rides with Buddha brims with acerbic humour, informed observations and lively stories. Ferguson is one fine Land of the Rising Star tour guide.”
Winnipeg Free Press

"The road book of the year. . . A warm-hearted account with a generous helping of satire."
The Daily Telegraph

"A mild stroke of genius. . . Savagely hilarious."
Sunday Herald

"You trust both his humour and his insights. . . . An admirable pair of eyes through which to see contemporary Japan."
The Observer

"I enjoyed Hitching Rides with Buddha immensely. Will Ferguson is a very gifted writer."
—Bill Bryson

Praise for Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw:
"Ferguson’s strength does not lie in whether he writes funny or not. His strength is that he writes so well."
Times Colonist (Victoria)

"Yet another masterfully entertaining examination of Canuckishness penned by the Calgary author. . . . Ferguson’s fascination with Canadiana is infectious."
Calgary Herald

"Full of surprises . . . and idiosyncratic charms. . . . Travel writers don’t always get to climb Everest or visit the Taj Mahal, and they can be judged best by what they come up with on a slow day. Ferguson is good when he’s sipping a handful of icy water out of Hudson Bay; he’s better eating pancakes in a Finnish restaurant in Thunder Bay."
National Post

"Lively storytelling . . . Artful descriptions of the Canadian landscape."
The Globe and Mail

"Will Ferguson is a talent. He writes refreshingly, provocatively and eloquently. . . . He looks for the essence and his search brings out some smashingly insightful stuff."
Ottawa Citizen

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Will Ferguson is one of Canada’s bestselling authors and has been published in 26 languages and 33 countries around the world. His most recent bestseller, Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, won the 2005 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, which he also won in 2002 for his debut novel, Happiness™. With his brother Ian, he wrote the wildly successful book How to Be a Canadian.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It takes you to and through the heart of Japan July 11 2009
By Glenn Simon Inc TOP 500 REVIEWER
I've lived in Japan for 10 years now and I've read a lot of books written by ex-pats about Japan. Some are romantic, others cynical, there are even some angry ones out there but none are as bang on as this because all those emotions are here and as a bonus the book's funny as hell.

In fact I will go so far as to say it's the only one you need to read.

A few weeks in Japan won't give you the true feel of the country, I'm not sure even a few decades will but the Japan captured in this book has all the idiosyncrasies, wonders and downright craziness you will find in this fantastic country. It's like Japan reduced to the truest- forget your Lonely Planet this is way more useful.

Will's trip to follow the cherry blossoms is so wonderful I'm betting a lot of long time residents are slapping their foreheads and saying, "Why didn't I think of that!"

The beauty of Japan during the cherry blossoms is unsurpassed and the revelry is unending. The whole country shakes off it's winter blanket grabs a bottle of sake and comes out to party. If you can't go you'll certainly live it vicariously through this book.

I loved this book and am going to order all his books spaced out slowly so I can enjoy them over the rest of my life.

If you love Bill Bryson then you will love Will Ferguson.

My humble gaijin opinion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Writing Sept. 29 2013
By Bootsy Bass TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everything you didn't know about Japan and the Japanese people. Done in Mr Fergusons great style this book will make you laugh, and you might just learn something too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So much fun! June 8 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you have lived or visited Japan, this book is for you. I learned about japanese culture that I didn't know, even after three years of living there. The book was full of interesting cultural tidbits and lots of funny stories that anyone who has ever had the pleasure of being the local gaijin can totally understand. Read it. :-)
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