Hitchhiking Across Japan

Chino, Japan

A fellow hitchhiker at the same service station. He was on his way to Tokyo while I was headed towards Mt. Fuji.

Nagano, Japan.

After having spent too much time with new friends, I lost track of the time. I was at the service station holding my hitchhiking sign, but at this hour, nobody was going in the same direction anymore. For the first time in a long time I had no idea what to do. It was cold, the nearby hotels and hostels were way out of my budget, the train station was far away, and everywhere that could potentially house me for the night was locked. Before long, it was 11pm and I was wandering aimlessly. Under a dimly lit street, a woman jumped out from her car and asked where I was going.

“I don’t know,” was the only answer that I could give her.

Without question, she took me in. Suddenly, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on was no longer a luxury I would take for granted again. The next morning she brought me soup and drove me to a nearby service station where I could continue my journey.

Fujiyoshida, Japan

This was the first time I had been picked up by a local who spoke perfect English. Turns out she was an English teacher. That would explain it.

Yamanashi, Japan.

This couple picked me up and drove me about an hour and a half. We used Google Translate the entire way. We were so distracted that we drove past my exit. I never asked, but thankfully they turned around.

Shiga, Japan.

“We are hitchhikers too!!”

Nagoya, Japan.

I was on my way to Nakatsugawa to visit some older Japanese Villages. This couple had picked me up from a service station and asked where I was staying for the night. Once again I found myself laughing through a familiar answer of, “I don’t know yet.” Being grandparents themselves, I could tell this was unsettling. Immediately they took me to their ‘working place’ and printed out several large maps. They provided detailed instructions on how I could get from where I was, to where I wanted to go (although I already had most of that figured out.) Coordinates, bus/train ticket prices, and even hostel/hotel information. Still worried, they brought me to their home for the night. We shared an amazing dinner, a quick castle tour, and breakfast together the next morning. This was one of my harder goodbyes as it felt like saying goodbye to family.

Nakatsugawa, Japan.

I was at the smallest service station for hitchhiking and incredibly few cars were passing through. Thankfully, these boys gave me a ride while on a 2.5 hour journey to visit one of Japan’s most sacred onsens. They even bought me ramen. Thanks guys.

Ina, Japan.

They were on their way home from the nearby University and gave me ride about 20 minutes past their exit.

Fujiyoshida, Japan.

He picked us up after a 15 mile hike. We were dying and extremely grateful. His english was proficient but for some reason we weren’t allowed to speak at red lights. I still don't know why.

Kyoto, Japan.

He was my first ride in Japan. He likes to use Facebook in his free time and is currently battling stomach cancer. I asked if he was alright. His response:

“I still have the cancer inside of me but it doesn’t matter. Life is meant to be lived. I don’t want to waste it being sad or unhappy. I will enjoy this life--whatever life I have left. I will enjoy it everyday.”.

Fujiyoshida, Japan.

They picked my friend Chris and I up in Fujiyoshida. Although our destination was about 40 minutes past their exit they were willing to drive two hours out of their way. We stopped them immediately once we realized what they were doing. We gratefully redirected them to the nearest train station.

Funny enough, these are only a few of the several stories that I've collected. My original incentive for hitchhiking in foreign country was to meet locals while still traveling on a small budget. Unless I have to be somewhere urgently, I would say this is my new favorite form of transportation. Above everything, I didn’t realize how many amazing people I would meet along the way.

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