Press Kit

Walking in Circles: Finding Happiness in Lost Japan

What is Walking in Circles?

WALKING IN CIRCLES delivers a fresh voice on Japan from award-winning writer Todd Wassel. In his debut book he explores the contemporary challenge of finding meaning in life by taking on the traditional way of walking the Shikoku pilgrimage. Wassel achieves a fun, adventurous and insightful exploration of both the pitfalls of modern life and the contradictions that make Japan so difficult to understand.

Just the Facts

Title: Walking in Circles: Finding Happiness in Lost Japan

Author: Todd Wassel

Publication Date: July 20, 2020

Format: Kindle Ebook and paperback

Number of Pages: 324

ISBN: 978-1-7353116-0-9 (paperback)

978-1-7353116-1-6 (eBook edition)

Publisher: Jizo Press

Walking in Circles a journey into the heart of Japan


<25 Words: Walking in Circles is a fun, inspirational travel memoir filled with interesting characters and a Japan tourists never get to see.

<50 Words: Todd Wassel draws on over twenty years in Japan to retell his epic journey walking the 750-mile, 88-temple Buddhist pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku. Guided by a scam artist pilgrim, naked Yakuza, and a vengeful monk, this is a Japan few outsiders ever see.

<100 Words: Out of work, out of love, drowning in debt, and lost in Japan. In an attempt to be happy, Todd Wassel sets out to walk the 750-mile, 88-temple Shikoku Henro pilgrimage.

Sleeping outside, armed with only a Japanese map, Todd is helped along his way by a wandering ascetic hiding from the Freemasons; naked Yakuza trying to shake him down; a scam artist pilgrim; and a Buddhist monk who hates America but loves beef jerky.

Can he find what he’s looking for before the path, or his new friends, break him?

The Full Book Description <200 Words:

Lost between worlds. A 750-mile walk through Japan. A life that will never be the same.

Todd Wassel fled a normal life just after graduation. Over half a decade later he’s lost in Japan, unable go home but unwilling to give up. Convinced there was more to life, he risks everything to return to the one place he found answers years before: the ancient Shikoku Henro pilgrimage. Walking the 750-mile henro path, sleeping outside each night, Todd is armed with only a Japanese map. Between the 88 Buddhist temples he finds help from a wandering ascetic hiding from the Freemasons; naked Yakuza trying to shake him down; a scam artist pilgrim; and a vengeful monk.

Can he find what he’s looking for before the path, or his new friends, break him?

Walking in Circles is an addictive, fun, inspirational travel memoir set in a Japan few outsiders ever get to see. Award-winning writer Todd Wassel draws on over twenty years in Japan to retell his epic journey through the contradictions of contemporary Japan while overcoming the forces that keep us from living a truly happy life.

Buy the book today to join Todd Wassel on his unforgettable Japanese adventure!

About the Author

Todd Wassel

Todd Wassel is an award-winning writer, international development professional, author and traveler. He has worked across Asia and Europe for the past 20 years as an English teacher in Japan, a human rights advocate in Sri Lanka, and a conflict management specialist in Timor-Leste and Kosovo. He has worked in and traveled to over 40 countries and is currently the Country Representative for the Asia Foundation in Laos. Todd won the People’s Choice Award in the Southeast Asia Travel Writing Competition and has been featured in Lonely Planet, the Diplomat and ABC Australia.

Todd Wassel Author

Todd has hiked into Machu Pichu, watched the sun rise from the top of Mount Fuji, dived the reefs of the Maldives, honeymooned in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and danced for days at weddings in India. He hiked from Montenegro to Albania, through Kosovo and into Macedonia, and walked the 900-mile pilgrimage to the 88 temples of Shikoku Japan, twice. He likes adventures and strong coffee.

Fluent in Japanese, Todd has a B.A. from Colgate University in Asian Studies and Comparative Religion, as well as a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher school at Tufts University. Todd met his wife Kaoru during a security crisis on the tiny half island of Timor-Leste and they have been traveling the world together ever since.

They currently live with their two children, Kaito and Sana, in Laos along the banks of the Mekong.

Praise for Walking in Circles


Japanese culture beyond the usual Tokyo-centric focus. Wassel’s ability to both entertain and educate makes Walking in Circles a highly recommended read.– Midwest Book Review

A great travelogue should offer three different types of exploration: into a particular time abroad, into the author’s brain, and also, most profoundly, into our own psyche. Todd Wassel’s adventures in Japan delivers on each criteria with gusto. A sure-footed, special book.”–Gordon Peake, author of Beloved Land: stories, struggles and secrets from Timor-Leste

“Wassel brings a bold new voice to travel writing.” –Alex Dolan, author of The Euthanist

“Todd Wassel draws on enduring motifs of pilgrimage narratives in Walking in Circles but the story is also so clearly his own–and such an engaging, sincere, and funny account–that you might not immediately notice echoes of The Canterbury Tales. Yet the classic stuff is all in there, from the unexpected moments of sudden clarity to the dreariness of being trapped in a conversation with a sex addict.

Along the way, a story of self-discovery definitively of its time: caught between his distaste for the lives his professional peers have built for themselves and his envy of them, Wassel also evinces a contemporary preoccupation–without obviously naming it–with authenticity. A pilgrimage, of course, is among the clearest of options for reconciling personal authenticity (being true to thine own self, let’s say) and a desire to seek out authentic experience (walking as the truest form of the pilgrimage, engaging only in Japanese) that the average backpacker might only dream of. In many ways, that reconciliation–ironic and surprising, as it unfolds across the narrative–is at the heart of the book.

Walking in Circles is, finally, also wonderful just for its insider-outsider insight into Japanese culture. That Wassel’s conflicted relationship to Japan echoes his own conflicted relationship to his own culture’s expectations of adulthood . . . well, that’s also part of the genius and the fun.” Sean Chadwell, Executive Director, Luang Prabang Film Festival

Reader Reviews

“You won’t be able to put this book down.” 5-star Amazon Review

“One of the best on the Shikoku 88.” 5-star Amazon Review

“I was mesmerized by the journey from beginning to finish.” 5-star Amazon Review

“I LOVE the book.” 5-star Goodreads Review

“Enlightenment when shared can be powerful stuff.” 5-Star Goodreads Review

Author Sample Q & A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Answer: I first visited Japan and walked the pilgrimage back in 1998. Ever since that first time around I knew that I wanted to write something about Shikoku as the hardship and journey affected my path in life deeply. Over the years I wrote and rewrote stories from the journey. But I was never satisfied with the book that was emerging. I didn’t want to write another coming of age story, or add to the ranks of books about Westerners coming to Japan and commenting on everything that is different without really understanding what was happening. It wasn’t until recently, with the perspective of age that I began see clearly how the path shaped my life, and had a better understanding my relationship with Japan and all of its complexities and contradictions.

2. What is the book about?

Answer: On the surface the book is about my second walking pilgrimage in 2005 to the 88 temples of Shikoku. But in between the temples I attempt to show Japan through its contradictions rather than in spite of them. It is a love letter to Shikoku, its residents, its nature, and the deep effect it has had on the course of my life. It is also an example of the dangers and rewards of self discovery and understanding who you really are.

3. What did you learn when writing the book?

Answer: Writing the book felt like walking the pilgrimage all over again. I thought I would only write one book and be done. But as I reflected, I realized the lessons learned in Shikoku have followed me all the way to the present. There is a long red line that connects me to my younger self, the henro path and I and the choices I made after leaving Shikoku behind.

4. What does the title mean?

Answer: In one way or another, most people who end up walking the pilgrimage are lost and looking for their next path in life. Most of the time, the term “walking in circles” is taken in a negative way. But with the pilgrimage it is about the process of starting and ending in the same place. Rather than the destination being new, it is you who sees it with different eyes. You can walking around as many times as you like, and while the island does not change, you will find new things about yourself each time.

5. What themes do you deal with in the book?

Answer: This is a book of contradictions and how anything or anyone can be more than just one thing. Japan is both conservative and crazy, polite and extremely rude. Ultimately the contradictions show that you can’t have something sacred without the profane. It is a book about adulthood, the expectations of society, and the battle between letting others define us rather than learning to be ourselves. It is a book about Japan and the stress that conforming can cause, but also the healing nature of leaving society behind. It is about how four simple things: food, water, shelter and companionship, can open us up to seeing a larger picture of the universe.

6. Would you walk the pilgrimage again?

Answer: I’m already planning it!

7. Will there be a follow up book?

Answer: Yes. I’m writing the second book now and there will be at least three books in the series. The next book finds me finished with graduate school and struggling to put the lessons I learned into practice in the real world. If Book One is about finding one’s purpose in life, Book Two is about how to put it into action as I chase after love, career and conflict.

Reader Demographics

English speaking readers interested in Japanese culture, travel, hiking, memoir and self-development from the following markets:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia and New Zealand


  1. 66% Women; 34% Male
  2. 45%- 65+
  3. 28%- 55-64
  4. 17%- 45-54
  5. 8%- 35-44

Where to Find Walking in Circles

Paperback or Ebook on

Amazon US ➜

Amazon UK ➜

Amazon CAN ➜

Amazon AUS ➜

Paperback available through any bookstore

Barns & Nobles



Logos, Photos and Ad Promotions

Download high and low resolution author bio pictures, book covers, and sharable promotional materials HERE.

Examples of Promotional Material

Social Media and Contact

Todd is available for presentations and interviews upon request.

E-mail: (Review Copy Available Upon Request)






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