A 750-mile pilgrimage, an unprepared office worker, and everything that went wrong along the way.

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Age twenty-eight and fed up with the office job he settled for, Paul Barach decided to travel to Japan to follow a vision he had in college: to walk the ancient 750-mile Shikoku pilgrimage trail. 

Here are some things he did not decide to do: learn Japanese, do any research, road test his hiking shoes, or check if it’s the hottest summer in history.

And he went anyway, hoping to change his life. 

Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains is the absurd and dramatic journey of one impulsive American’s search for answers on a holy path in an exotic land. Along the pathway connecting 88 temples, he’ll face arduous mountain climbs, hide from guards in a toilet stall, challenge a priest to a mountaintop karate battle, and other misadventures. He’ll also delve into the fascinating legends of this ancient land, including a dragon-fighting holy man, a berserker warrior-priest, haunted temples, and a vendetta-driven ghost that overthrew a dynasty. 

Told with humor and humility, Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains is a funny, engaging memoir about the consequences of impulsive decisions, and the things you can discover while you’re looking for something else. 

Also that boars are terrifying in person.