Hitchhiking in Japan!
I learned a new Japanese word at Shalom no Mori right before I left. Unmei = destiny. This word fallowed me throughout my hitchhiking adventures. Since Sori is way out in BFE I decided to spend $9 to take a train to Isesaki, Gunma-ken; a bigger city near the main highway. I hiked about an hour with my huge pack and found the on-ramp to the Interstate. After holding up my sign reading “Traveling Shakuhachi Musician” for about one hour a man pulled up and waved me into his car. He showed no signs of fear, he didn’t need to look me over or anything (I’ve read many Japanese will do this.) This man was Shinichi-san! He was driving from work in Ota city, where he’s a Subaru mechanic, to home in Maebashi. He asked me where I was going in broken english and Japanese. I said “Saku” which was about an hour away and about 45 minutes past where he was going. He seemed to have no problem with this but I tried to explain in my form of broken Japanese & English that It was ok to just take me to Maebashi. We discussed many things in this fusion language and it turns out that he’s a Fly fisherman that has fished many times at my last wwoof host! Unmei! Ne? The place concerned here is way off the map, and not a hot spot.
Shinichi-san driving me through a tunnel. ^^^ So when we get to Saku I’m completely surprised. This man has just driven me 45 minutes out of his way and I didn’t even realize it! The time flew by during our conversation. That night I found a park in Saku and setup camp!
The next morning I continued hitchhiking to Lake Suwa where I planned to meet a girl that I met on http://www.couchsurfing.com . First I had to walk for 3 hours from the middle of town to the edge of town where the highway to Lake Suwa was. On my way I ran into the school children walking to school and made some new friends. Any time I see school children (identifiable by their yellow hats) I say “Konnichiwa! Hello!” and give them a chance to practice their english.
I was almost to the intersection where I thought I could catch a good ride when I saw a nice Hachi-roku (Toyota Corolla GT-S in America, chassis code = AE86 [hachi-roku = 8-6].) I used to own and race 2 of these cars back in the states. So I stopped and took a photo.
Less than 10 minutes later (and technicaly, before i even started hitchhiking) I hear a car honking behind me! It’s the sweet hachi-roku I had just taken a photo of!
This is Hanazawa-san! He left work at his family’s shop early after seeing me take a photo of his car. I guess he was excited about someone being excited about his 80’s Toyota Corolla! haha. He asked me where I was going. “Suwa-ko” [ko = lake] I said. (which was about an hour’s drive through the mountains.) He said “let’s go!” and off we went! Here is a short video of us speaking and his working hachi-roku miniature!:
He took me to meet his sister in Suwa-ko who is an english teacher who was very kind and served us coffee and cheesecake. He took me to an ashi onsen [ashi = feet & legs] and he even took me out to lunch at a Nepalese curry joint! I told him everything was on me, but he physically prevented me from paying after we had eaten! Basically he spent his entire day driving me around and taking care of me. What a guy! He even helped me stash away some of the free naan bread! hahaha! It was pure destiny for us to meet. This experience left me glowing all day. The kindness of a complete stranger is an amazing thing and really inspires me to do the same for others.
The kindness of Japanese people never ceases to amaze me. Hitchhiking is now my favorite mode of transportation. It sure as hell beats riding a packed train where no one talks to you (or eachother.)