Did I walk in 2023? Oh, I walked. Maybe not as much as some other years, but walk I did and here is where and what I did when it comes to walking.
I started the year off with a TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO walk, part two, and walked in the winter through the streets of Tokyo, a city I know better than and have spent more time in than any other in the world. Every corner of the city holds some memory. I love it. I love its jumble and ugliness. I love that it’s all functioning, the majesty of infrastructure on display wherever you look. I love the old falling apart wooden homes. The 1970s and 80s funky old apartment buildings. I don’t love most of the new Mori-driven central developments — they’re gaudy and boring and boy oh boy do we really need yet another Chanel store? Apparently, yes. And the housing they provide is for a class if human for whom their wealth was likely, probably, maybe-just-maybe ill begotten. But the other developments, the big towers going up around Musashi Kosugi or Jiyugaoka — housing that’s pretty sensible, that’s taking some low-rise commercial areas and plopping thousands of units atop. Those? Those I dig. More units, always. Tokyo, one of the few places in Japan where the population is increasing. And yet, you can still live well for not a lot. This is critical to the texture and energy of Tokyo. So much to adore in this city and even now, today, twenty-three-and-a-half years since I first set foot on Japanese soil, I still feel a buoyant elation walking the city.
From there, Morioka took hold and I ended up walking its very streets over and over again for various projects. For TV shows. For newspaper interviews. JR wanted me to film an ad. I declined. I do not want to be in ads. I simply want to draw a collective attention to good things.
March, I walked the streets of Brooklyn, and a bit of Manhattan, desperate to sell my book, Things Become Other Things. As much as I like New York, it does not fill me with nearly the same awe that Tokyo always has and continues to do. (I eventually sold TBOT to Random House (pub date: Spring 2025) and published my own edition, which came out last November.)
In April, I walked bits of the Kiso-ji twice. Both times, me plus two others. Two other humans I adore once. And then two more humans I adore once again. Was great to do this same walk in rapid succession. Some folks don’t understand why you’d want to walk the same routes again and again, but for me, it’s everything, the repetition, the building of relationships. I’d rather walk one road for the rest of my life than be forced to always walk somewhere new. I wrote up a three part series on the Kiso-ji: part one, part two, part three.
May and June were working on TBOT with my Fine Art Edition editor, Oli Chance. And a little trip to California for a friend’s 72nd birthday. And then, at the end of June, I was off on my Northern Jazz Tour in BASIE!BOP!JAMAICA!. Perhaps the most fun I’ve had on a pop-up newsletter / walk to date. What a blast, meeting all the old proprietors, arriving sight-unseen to all these classic jazz kissas. Often I was the only customer. Several times, I made the owner cry. It was as moving a trip as you can improv jazz your way through, which is exactly what I did.
Hot off B!B!J! I had a whopping four days of rest and then hit the ground running and exhausted in England. 300 kilometers. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast with a dear bud. Man, that kicked my ass. Serious climbing at the start in the Lake District. But those views — epic, wet, moody. And the sandwiches — epic, wet, moody. I’d pay $50 for a good Branston Pickle and cheddar on rye right about now. A culinarily revelatory walk (at both ends of the scale — delicious and terrible), and a damn fine workout.
August and September I was writing. October I was in production mode for TBOT. These were hot, messy months, anyway, and it’s never a good time to walk. (OK: I did one little walk in north-east Tokyo and, well, it was sweaty.)
In November, I snuck in another TOKIO TŌKYŌ TOKYO — part three. Some 140 kilometers or so. Walked from Disneyland on the outskirts of eastern Tokyo alllllll the way across the “Tō” (prefecture) to the western hinterlands and the top of Mt. Kumotori — both the highest point in Tokyo and most western. What a walk. Joined by a dear bud on the last day.
Got back and walked around Japan with my parents. At least until my arm bloomed with bacteria and I had to be hospitalized. And then the year ended and I slid across the finish line like some battered and self-soiled ultra-marathoner, ready to sleep for a month.
Which is, partly, what I’ve been doing this past month. Lots of sleeping. Healing. 2023 was a heck of a year, a real bonanza of gifts, a surfeit of blessings. But, boy, did it use me up.
Anyway, wanted to sneak this in. It’s good to look back, to summarize. I figure we clocked some 700 kilometers or so of “deliberate” walking in 2023. Walking during which our attention was focused, we were present, grateful to be witnessing and passing various lives on display and lives being lived. And grateful to be walking next to the great folks who joined at various points.
I have a whole host of walks planned this year. And would like to do one “mega solo” walk, at least. It’s been too long.
Hope you’re all well. More soon.