Yes, that's right! I hitchhiked my way around Kyushu. I wanted to do something crazy and "not me" and hitchhiking fit that bill perfectly. Now, this is not something I would do at home because I would not feel safe doing it. Japan, in my opinion, is a safer country with more trustworthy people and if I had to choose anywhere in the world to hitchhike, it would be Japan. And so it was! We were well taken care of every step of the way and although I knew there were risks, it was most definitely worth it! Now, I would like to share my story with you! =)
Wednesday, May 2. Day 1:
Last week was Golden Week, which is basically a string of national holidays back to back. Tuesday and Wednesday were the only work days, but we decided to take leave and start a little early. We walked down to the road that leads to Shimabara, our first destination. When we found a good spot to throw out our thumbs, I must admit that I was a bit nervous and very anxious. What if we couldn't get a ride out of Omura? It felt weird to actually have a hitch-hiker's thumb...I never thought I would find myself in that position.
After about 10 minutes of waiting, a huge group of young school children walked by on the other side of the road. They were so excited to see us that they were waving and saying "hello! hello!" We got caught up in waving at them that we almost didn't notice that a car had pulled over to pick us up!! 10 minutes and without even trying (because we were waving at the kids). He took us to the Isahaya eki, which was out of our way, but we were grateful to get out of Omura. The driver was on the job...apparently he works for a funeral service. Kinda creepy, but he was a very nice older man.
Ok, so we are slightly on our way, but far from the road we need to be at in order to find anyone going to Shimabara. We start walking and on our way, we pass by this used car shop. There are three mechanics ("grease monkeys") that rush out and start talking to us. One of them spoke some English, so he was having fun talking to us. They asked us what we were doing with all of our baggage and when we told them that we were hitchhiking, they couldn't believe it! The next thing we know, they collapsed a box, brought out markers, and were making us a huge sign that read "Shimabara." One of the men even went out of his way to drive us to a better location. Meg and I have grease monkey friends now! We must go back to see them!
And here's the finished sign! It was so colorful and very helpful. In less than 10 minutes, we got a ride from a salesman (also a surfer) who took us all the way to the ferry port in Shimabara. Very helpful and very nice. He's picked up hitchhikers two or three times before, but they had all been foreigners. Hitchhiking isn't that common at all in Japan.
Then, we got on the ferry without much trouble at all. We were having great timing!
Once we arrived in Kumamoto, we had a quick lunch and hit the road once again. This is the first problem we ran into : hardly any traffic was going by since the ferry port was outside the city. There was a long bridge and we walked all the way across it, putting out our thumbs whenever a car did pass by. However, by the time we got to the end of the bridge, a car pulled over! Success! Here's the amazing part of our next ride. The guy was deaf!! Now, this shocked us because in reality, he was probably more vulnerable than we were, but he stopped anyway. I wrote out a few things on a piece of paper and he was kind enough to take us to the eki (station). That was a first even for Meg, who spent 5 weeks hitchhiking in Canada. Cool, huh?
After finding our bearings, we headed towards the direction we wanted to go to next: Kagoshima. We stopped and tried to get a ride, but we were told a better place to go hitch, and so we did. Our next ride came and it was a nice man in a nice car. He took us maybe 10 minutes down the road before he turned off in the next direction, but any ride is a good ride, right? While we were trying to figure out where to position ourselves next, and old drunk man was trying to talk to us and ask us to come get a "present" from his friend's house. Yeah, right...like we are going to follow you. You can't even ride your bike straight. So, we left and quickly got our next ride -- 2 younger guys, once of which is from Isahaya! We joked that we would see each other at Jusco sometime...that would be awesome. They work for Coca-Cola, which Meg and I noticed there is a lot of in Kagoshima. They drove us for about an hour and even bought us a bunch of snack food before dropping us off. They were worried that we might not be able to eat since we were in the inaka (country side) and restaurants close early. They were really sweet to us...and they loved our company and learning new English words.
It was getting late and we were wondering if we would get one last ride that night. We stood on the road for a while and a guy walked up and asked where we were heading. Turns out he was going in our direction and he offered to take us in his truck! He was delivering various goods like clothes, but the cool part was that we got to ride in a truck! He drove us for about 3 hours (7pm-10pm). Towards the end, he asked us where we were planning to stay. We told him that any Internet cafe or karaoke box would be fine. He got on his phone and started asking if there were any places like that in Sendai (where we were heading). I suspect that he was talking to his father because after he told us there weren't any places to stay, he offered us a place to stay. His father ("papa") met us in town and we waited for the truck driver to make his delivery. While we waited, he bought us a coke each...first time I've had a Coke in a while -- and hey, Coke in Kagoshima. haha. We didn't really know what was going on, but we knew we had a place to stay that night. We drove forever to get where we were going and we ended up at a restaurant. The people there, "Papa's" friends fed us and gave us a place to stay that night. Turns out that Papa has 6 girls and one boy...no wonder he wanted to take care of us! Not only did they give us more food than we could handle, but they also gave us 2 comfortable futon, a quite room of our own, and clean towels to take a shower. We slept very well that night and were amazed with the generosity of people -- our jaws only got wider with the following day! Stay tuned for days two, three, and four soon!