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Professor's Travel Book a Fixture on Best-Seller List

For the first 10 years of his professional career, Robert Walker operated tours and arranged meetings and conventions for General Electric's housewares and audio business division. The tax attorney and professor, who started traveling in high school, has visited 125 countries. But, he is quick to point out, he still has 75 countries left to see.

It comes as little surprise, then, that the self-declared "inveterate traveler" would publish a book, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, which leapt to the top 100 best-seller list for's Japan travel category immediately after Simon & Schuster's Tuttle Publishing released it last May. "It has stayed there ever since," said Walker, who has taught law and accounting at UMUC in Okinawa and Korea since 2002.

The book covers the 150 islands in the Ryukyu chain, about 75 of which are inhabited. Over a 10-year period, the Okinawa-based lecturer has visited every inhabited island in the chain—many of them three or four times.

Walker said he could have predicted that the book would sell well in the U.S. military community on Okinawa, which was his target audience. "What has greatly surprised me is how tremendous the reception has been from the Japanese, Okinawan, Japanese-American, and Okinawan-American community."

Walker, who was attending a book tour in Honolulu when he responded to questions about his book, said the reception he has received from the Okinawan-American community on the island has been "unbelievable."

"Evidently, the book has filled a vacuum in an all-in-one introduction to traveling in contemporary Okinawa and the Ryukyus that was not met before."

The book has received favorable reviews in the Ryukyu Shimpo and Japan Times, and at least one famous traveler intends to use it in her travels. "I look forward to consulting [the book] as I prepare for future visits to Okinawa and its neighboring islands," U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy wrote to Walker after he sent her a signed copy.

Walker said he wrote the book first and foremost as a traveling companion—as Ambassador Kennedy intends to use it—and hoped it would be a useful guide that those discovering the islands would bring along. "But all the while I wrote it, I planned on armchair travelers reading it at home," he added.

In addition to offering readers everything from advice about motorcycle licenses and boat departure schedules to guidance on negotiating car rates and useful terms for travelers, the book includes recipes, like one for stir-fried goya.

Goya, Walker noted, is bitter. "But that doesn't stop the Okinawans from eating them. Known as the longest-lived people on earth, Okinawans claim that their longevity comes from their easygoing island lifestyle, happiness in family life, and diet, which mostly comprises fish and vegetables," he wrote in the book. "The goya is credited with all kinds of superlatives and believed to be about the most healthful food one can eat."