We begin Yokoyama’s Travel as three men stand in a deserted station, ticket in hand, waiting for their train. A shining silver bullet zooms past, and the doors open; the men board. As the train picks up speed, the men begin to walk the length of the train, looking for seats. They pass a multitude of different seating and people, ranging from rows upon rows of military-type men to pairs of empty seats in front of large windows. While they’re walking, they pass many people, some of which who watch the men with interest. They pass men in a meeting, two people sleeping, a woman sitting alone, and a man reading a newspaper depicting scenes of disaster and catastrophe as they walk through the train. Eventually, the three men find an empty compartment and sit down. At various points through their voyage, they look out the windows of the train. The sky varies from overcast to cloudy with beams of sunlight shining through, foreshadowing a rain storm to come. The train passes strange-looking landscapes, such as a mountain with a boulder at the very top. As the countryside rattles by, the train comes into a more urban area, filled with odd houses and buildings. However, it seems as though every building is deserted, and soon the train passes out of the village and back into the countryside. Another train passes by, filled with passengers, and the sky darkens.
A light rain begins and slowly gets heavier until the landscape through the windows become distorted. Soon it is storming and the sound is overwhelming for the three passengers. After witnessing lightning, the weather begins to clear and the passengers look through the window to see a gorgeous glistening lake. As they come to a stop near the lake, the passengers watch as military personnel exit the train and the station and as two new passengers enter the train and into the car that the three original passengers are sitting. The train continues to travel next to lakes and eventually enters a mountainous area, where they pass a waterfall, cross a dam, and journey through cliffy canyons. One of the original passengers closely observes one of the new passengers in their train car until the new passenger notices. Two of the original passengers smoke the cigarettes that were purchased at the beginning of the story. As the train travels through the mountains, they pass wild animals along with hunters and hikers.
After they pass through this mountainous region, they soon arrive at a train station and go through an urban area. They pass many apartment complexes, skyscrapers and a very busy highway. Our characters then pass through a densely packed mall and go up a ramp to join several other large trains. Just before stopping at another station our travelers see many railroads and various turns for each train to go. This station is much larger than the previous one; they arrive between platforms 19 and 20 with dozens of escalators leading up to the upper deck where there are people watching the trains arrive. One of our characters puts his book away and exits the train at this station and watches all of the new faces depart with the train. The train departs and passes through another highway as well as several cranes while there are about half a dozen trains flying by. They go by some painters and see a helicopter landing on a roof of a building near them. We arrive at another station and our characters exit the train and proceed to go to the upper level. Our original travelers walk through a nice little forest with a path in the middle to end up at a nice little body of water which seems to be their final destination.
In Travel, everyday occurrences are made to seem exciting and intense. This is so the reader’s attention is focused on the excitement of travelling as opposed to the usual interests such as destination and scenery. The reader finds themselves engaged in the vehicle’s architecture and odd looking passengers. Yokoyama’s art style allows for this. Also, the overuse of speed lines and odd shapes let the reader, for some reason, become more interested in the common events that happen in our own world more than the exciting, imaginary world he has created outside of the train. For example, Yokoyama gives multiple views of every action, and uses speed lines to intensify events such as a raindrops falling from the sky or lighting a cigarette. It is odd that the attractions should be the ordinary rather than the imaginary.
Throughout the novel, various themes are present as the protagonists travel on the train. Three major themes of in the story were the weather, architecture, and people, which help the readers put themselves in the story. During the journey, the weather continually changes from harsh winds to torrential rain. As a reader, I can picture myself sitting on the train and looking out the window and experiencing the weather. When reading the book, you can imagine hearing the sound of the rain as it hits the window and the howling of the wind. Furthermore, Yokoyama includes various types of Japanese architecture. The uniqueness of the buildings and sculptures helps us place ourselves in the setting of Japan and visualize the depth and width of the scenery. Lastly, the people that the protagonists encounter is one of the strongest themes that easily place the reader in the scene. Yokoyama distinguishes the supporting characters with one specific characteristic. The man with the sparkling eyes and the man with the book are examples of people who stand out in the novel. When we travel places, we notice people along our journey and usually what makes them stand out is a certain aspect. All in all, Yokoyama uses these themes to help the readers identify with the protagonists and picture themselves on train.
The artistic style employed by Yokoyama in Travel is one of extreme simplification. Most objects are so simplified, that they become abstractions and at some times are unrecognizable. For example, the faces of the people on the train are so simplified that there is absolutely no emotion visible, and the characters become almost indistinguishable. One review by Publishers Weekly states “Everything and everyone is abstracted until nothing is left but a few identifying features; some sequences, as when the train passes through a rain shower, are almost pure pattern.” This level of abstraction results in a very aesthetically interesting novel, as a significant portion of the reader’s time is spent trying to figure out what is going on. Another major point of Yokoyama’s drawing style is his employment of motion lines. He doesn’t specifically try to blend the motion into smooth transitions; instead, he uses jarring, hard lines to indicate motion.
As a Western reader, even after familiarizing yourself with style of the book and the fact that, staying true to Japanese style, one must read each page from right to left instead of the traditional Western left to right, the story stills seems confusing. It’s almost as if we’ve missed something along the way. Maybe it’s because we are not used to being content in the travel of life and are merely focused on our destination, but reading a story about riding on a train leaves us feeling a bit empty and simply saying “So what?” If you are reader looking for a challenge in comprehension, looking to slow down in life and enjoy the simplicities, or merely looking to try a new style of reading, then Travel is the book for you. Otherwise, I’d avoid it completely.
Publishers Weekly. “Yuichi Yokoyama: Travel”. November 2008. Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Yuichi-Yokoyama-Travel/dp/0981562205
By: Brittney Hanson, Brian Page, Lydia Matthews, Molly Pachay, Elson Yu, Lizz Knowlton, Amber Farrell