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.
“You can’t go home again” says Thomas Wolfe, and i’m cool with that as i don’t have a “home” however, there a few spots in the world that i always yearn to return to – one of which is Misasa Onsen, a small mountain town in Tottori-ken (prefecture) Japan(note: pop. approx 6500) which boasts hotsprings with exceptionally high levels of Radon/Radium (is this good for you? i dunno, not a chemist – note: radon is the gas-form).
They folklore says (as per the town’s name which translates to “Three Mornings”) that staying and bathing here for three days will cure you of all your ills. As Radium was discovered by French scientist Marie Curie, the town celebrates all things France with a statue, festival and park dedicated to the wise lady, and other Franco-accruements.
Puffing along a trail recounting leaving cold, miserable London en route to post-hurricane Florida with flashbacks to working in Rheinplatz grade fields, gathering chestnuts to sell for beer and bread money, strange encampments at Oktoberfest, and hitchhiking to Amsterdam with gaggle of pals. To London by ferry and rapid exit via cheap flight Florida, quickly interjecting in chaotic domestic situations, meals with surly Hare Krishnas, sleeping on unglamorous beaches, and avoiding looting commotion, while plotting forward momentum, which eventually came in form of a dubious drive-away car situation to Dallas… and beyond (in 1992).
Features music by: “Brave Captain” fIREHOSE (recorded live in Ancienne, Belgique, March 12, 1991 – via Archive.org), “Florida” by Blue Rodeo (recorded live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), and “Crazy Fingers” by Grateful Dead (recorded live in Phoenix, AZ, 1993 – via archive.org).