Mementos: Japan Hitch-hiking journey flashback

Japan hitch-hiking: holding a sign for Muroto in the southern tip of Shikoku
Japan hitch-hiking: holding a sign for Muroto in the southern tip of Shikoku

In 1993-4, I worked as a mushroom farmhand in Tottori-ken (prefecture), a rather remote area of Japan (southwestern-ish Honshu). The work was long and arduous and the boss was a jerk so, I eventually split unannounced one day.

Determined to explore some of the country before my visa ran out, I stuck my thumb-out seeking a “bouken” (adventure) after making destination signs by copying place name kanji characters onto 100 yes store notebooks with crayon and decorating with some lucky words and stamps (not sure if this helped).

Hitch-hiking isn’t very common in Japan but by sticking to rural areas – including the traditional “o henrosan dori” (the pilgrim’s path) on Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of the Japanese archipelago) which has seen many wandering poets, seekers and prayers over centuries – I skidded along alright.

Getting rides in the country areas was usually rather quick but often times, the ride would insist of showing “hospitality” in form of taking to their hometown to show off “the thing their town is famous for” (of which every town has one thing). Not ideal for fast moving but well… the take the ride, you go where it goes. Getting between big cities along the expressways was much less enjoyable and relied on waiting around rest/service areas in these cases.

I pitched my small tent most anywhere (beaches, shrines, parks etc) much the chagrin of caretakers and so on who would scold aloud in the early hours. In these situations, I poked my shaggy head out of the tent flap and yammered confused apologies in my farmer Japanese – this tactic would usually confuse the situation into submission.

Some of the time I was accompanied by a mysterious and intrepid Japanese surfer girl who thought my ridiculous plan was worth trying. I liked this part.

What follows are a few pieces of photographic evidence from these journeys, snapped with an early generation panorama camera – but developed “normal aspect” hence black framing bars on some shots.

Japan hitch-hiking: this ride insisted on a side trip to his hometown which featured a natural water source hot enough to boil eggs (in a mesh pouch) - also made said eggs rather smelly
Japan hitch-hiking: this ride insisted on a side trip to his hometown which featured a natural water source hot enough to boil eggs (in a mesh pouch) – also made said eggs rather smelly

Japan hitch-hiking: beach camping on Shikoku, in this moment, preparing pop-corn on a button camp stove (actual tent location at higher ground due to tides)
Japan hitch-hiking: beach camping on Shikoku, in this moment, preparing pop-corn on a button camp stove (actual tent location at higher ground due to tides)
Japan hitch-hiking: hard to hitch a ride on a boat so in this case, a ferry ride was useful - the ferry ride was splendid as you could stretch out and rest on tatami mats - recall the "royal wedding" of Crown Prince whilst onboard
Japan hitch-hiking: hard to hitch a ride on a boat so in this case, a ferry ride was useful – the ferry ride was splendid as you could stretch out and rest on tatami mats – recall the “royal wedding” of Crown Prince whilst onboard
Japan hitch-hiking: sometimes ya gotta wander a ways to find a place which has traffic coming by and a place to pull over. hot and humid no doubt as stroll past wet-field rice paddies
Japan hitch-hiking: sometimes ya gotta wander a ways to find a place which has traffic coming by and a place to pull over. hot and humid no doubt as stroll past wet-field rice paddies
Japan hitch-hiking: killing time while waiting for a ride setting up photos in the convex mirrors which help drivers see oncoming traffic
Japan hitch-hiking: killing time while waiting for a ride setting up photos in the convex mirrors which help drivers see oncoming traffic
Japan hitch-hiking: making friends along the way - the elder folks in Japan usually seemed more interested in my wanderings than their more "success-oriented" younger counterparts
Japan hitch-hiking: making friends along the way – the elder folks in Japan usually seemed more interested in my wanderings than their more “success-oriented” younger counterparts
Japan hitch-hiking: constantly pleased by the decorative outfits on the Buddha statue/grave markers - besides bibs, often knit hat and snacks like oranges, crackers and sometimes small boxes of sake
Japan hitch-hiking: constantly pleased by the decorative outfits on the Buddha statue/grave markers – besides bibs, often knit hat and snacks like oranges, crackers and sometimes small boxes of sake
Japan hitch-hiking: the mysterious surfer girl thumbs on Shikoku
Japan hitch-hiking: the mysterious surfer girl thumbs for a ride on Shikoku