Posted by Heliocentrism on September 19, 2014
September 21-23, 2012
Back in Japan with Friends
When I got back to Japan, Mark had a new job further up north. We were living on the island of Honshu on a region called Chugoku in a city called Okayama. We would stay there for 7 months and then move again. But, at the time of this trip we were far away from all our friends who live in Oita.
I don’t remember who picked this camping spot. Mark and I were excited for this trip to see our South African friends again. The trip itself was quiet and uneventful. This is the type of trip that makes life great, but blog posts boring. Since I know there are way more exciting post to come, as a person who is writing about these events that happen in the distant past, I don’t mind a few boring posts.
Hitchhiking in Japan
We did meet another camper. He was an English speaker from… oh lets say, England. He was hitchhiking across Japan. He traveled light. He had with him a few changes of clothes, a few meals, and some cash.
In the evening on our second day at the camp, the caretaker came to us and asked if another camper could camp near our site. We were a bit confused. No one ever makes that type of request. It would be like getting a knock on your hotel door and having the manager of the hotel asking if it was okay for him to rent out the room next to yours.
We told him it was okay and waited to see what would happen next. A tent went up beside our tents and a few hours later a guy showed up. He was alone, not Japanese, and he seemed friendly.
His name was Jack or John or Chris. I don’t remember now. He was spending 3 months in Japan and hitchhiking through the country. “Hitchhiking!?” I asked him, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll be chopped up into tiny bits and end up in someone’s freezer?” “No,” he said, “that particular thought has never crossed my mind.”
“Do you stand on the side of the road with a sign saying, ‘Tokyo or Bust’?”
“Sometimes. But mostly I just go in a general direction, like north. Once in a while I have a specific destination, like coming here.” I don’t remember what it was in this area he came to see, but he only spent one night. He was gone the next day before most of us woke up.
“How do you get people to stop for you?” This seemed like the biggest hurdle in Japan. How does a non-Japanese hitchhiker, hitchhike?
“Well, I dress nicely. It’s easier when I’m clean-shaven. It helps that I speak enough Japanese to explain where I’m going, what I do for a living, and that I can keep a conversation going. Also, I heard somewhere that carrying a guitar helps, though I don’t have one. Women driving alone usually don’t stop to pick me up. It’s mostly groups of younger men like college students. Sometimes solo drivers who are going a very long distance will pick up a hitchhiker for company.”
He also explained that sometimes the ride would last an hour or two, sometimes a whole day. A few times he was invited to someone’s home for dinner, but mostly he asks to be dropped off in a town or a city where he can spend the night.
After he left, Freda and I commented about how nice he seemed. We hoped that his trip went well and that he stayed un-murdered.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly. Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with most cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)
Kazurabashi Camp Village
- Coordinates 33°52’47.0″N 133°50’27.3″E
- bungalows – ￥5,200
- Bring your own tent – ￥1,000/ per tent
- There is also a general park admission:
- adult – ￥200
- kids – ￥100
- The campsite is close in the winter.
- There is a coin shower, but I don’t remember how much it costs.
- There is a scary rope bridge near by. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you get on the bridge and feel how shaky it is.
- Don’t wear shoes that slip off your feet easily.