On January 9th I hoped to hitchhike from Misawa City in Aomori Prefecture back home to Niigata but I ended the day 130 kilometers short of my goal! The main reason was accepting a ride from Mr. Suzuki,(24) from Kushiro in Hokkaido, who I met at Iwatesan Service area. He asked me if I would mind a stopover in Morioka city so he could do some shopping. Because Mr. Suzuki would be going all the way to Fukushima and therefore passing the Atadara service area which is just before the Ban’etsu junction, I didn’t mind the delay, for he said it would be only “30 minutes or so.” I assumed he meant he was going to the center of Morioka city, only a few minutes drive from the expressway.
It turned out Mr. Suzuki wasn’t really going to Morioka city at all, but a small town 76 kilometers to the east of Morioka, and most of the way on snowy mountainous road! This “30 minutes” Mr. Suzuki referred to really only meant the shopping and didn’t include the 3 hour car ride just to get to the shop and back to the expressway! Besides that, we also stopped several times for rest and once for dinner. By the time we arrived at Adatara, it was half past midnight! I didn’t want to go further with him to Tokyo because it would be nearly 4AM when arriving, but there were too few cars in the service area parking lot to make it worth the effort to hitchhike further that day. So I looked around in the inside customer area and found a nice comfortable soft bench to lay down on. It was warm but brightly lit. I used a piece of luggage for a pillow, pulled my wool hat over my eyes, and had a good 6 hours sleep. Nobody bothered me and I think hardly anybody even noticed me or cared if they did. If in my home country, the USA, I’m sooner or later an officer of the law would be yanking on my feet waking me up abruptly and asking me to leave. This is what happened in 1978 when sleeping my my own car in a national park when traveling from Washington State back to Chicago.
The next morning there were still too few cars in the service area with no Niigata license plates, and so I opted to leave Atadara service area and take the regular road. Route 4 is only a 20 minute walk from there. In 3 cars and just before noon I returned to Niigata city. The final driver was a nurse on her way to Toyama Prefecture. She rescued me after waiting some 30 minutes at the cold and snowy Bansaisan Service area on the Ban’etsu expressway.