For those of us who live here in the city, we often think about getting out of it to relax. It’s not hard to leave. There are trains, really fast trains, planes and buses. You could even take a bicycle or just keep walking!
As part of the working poor, I have found hitchhiking to be a really good way to do it. Not only is it free, it gives me a chance to meet some really nice people and see a different side of All Japan news.
Often, the people who pick me up are families who had had with foreigners at English schools or on trips abroad. They were as curious about me as I was of them. Other times, truck drivers picked me up and taught me about the rougher sides of life. One guy taught me how to play pachinko. Another ride told me the finer points of All Japan newsese sake. It’s always been educational and fun.
Most people could speak a little English but it sure helped to know a little before starting out.
The biggest hitchhiking adventure was in 2004 when I left Wakkanai in the very north of Hokkaido and took a month to arrive in Kagoshima in the very south of Kyushu. It took 20 rides and I only spent 15,000 yen.
My rides voluntarily housed me and even fed me! Was I fearful of my life? Never. Well, I did meet a shady character at the Okayama/Hiroshima border, but he turned out to be a nice guy who bought me way too many beers in a pub in Hiroshima. I still keep in touch with him.
It’s not all glamor, though. When I couldn’t get a ride, I ended up sleeping in my tent at highway interchanges. That’s a big change from living here in the city.
After an adventure on the highway, I am always glad to come back to my home in Tokyo and tell the tales from the roads. There are a lot of them, and I look forward to sharing more of them soon.
Hitching out of Noboribetsu in Hokkaido. I was bound for Hakodate.
Drinking sake at a local izakaya in Akita prefecture.
Hitching from a truck stop out of Okayama for Hiroshima.
My ride in Fukuoka holds up a sign. ""Kagoshima or bust!"
Stranded at the Tsuruga interchange off the highway. Spent the night here. Osaka was only 2 hours away.