HomeHitchhiking AdventuresFirst Hitchhiking Adventure of 2016 from Niigata City Log in

On March 4th, 2016 I hitchhiked 100 kilometers or about 60 miles to the city of Tokamachi. It is a city in the midst of hills. The Shinano River which is the longest river in Japan flows through Tokamachi. It’s called “Shinano” for that was the old name of Nagano Prefecture which is its source. But in Nagano Prefecture the same river is called Chikuma.

Doctor Mayaya

Doctor Masaya

The first driver was a medical doctor by the name of Masaya. He works in a hospital not far from my home. I asked Masaya if he believes the spirit is separate from the physical. He said most doctors do not believe the spirit affects physical health, but he does. I gave him tracts from Dr. John Gideon Hartnett that expose Evolution, Big Bang, Dark Matter and Dark Energy as pseudo-science. Masaya took me from Niigata city to Sanjo city which is on the Kanetsu / Hokuriku expressway. He could not take me exactly where I wanted to go in Sanjo because he was pressed for time. I walked the rest of the way, about 20 minutes and crossed a bridge over the Shinano River to get to the expressway interchange.

Man who took me to Echigo Kawaguchi

Man who took me to Echigo Kawaguchi

After hitchhiking at the expressway interchange for 15 minutes without success, I decided to take a 190 yen bus ride to get to the Sakae Parking area of the expressway. From there a man on the way to Gunma prefecture took me to Echigo Kawaguchi. “Echigo” is the old name for Niigata before the Meiji era. Kawaguchi literally means “river’s mouth”. It has some meaning related to the Shinano River which passes through it. The man was coming from Gosen City on his way back home in Gunma.

Because the man was not getting off the expressway, he dropped me off at a parking area from where I could walk over a bridge to get off the expressway to a regular road. Pedestrians are not supposed to be walking on that bridge! One of the expressway workers saw me passing by the toll booth and knew I must have walked over the bridge from the expressway parking area! By the time he saw me I was already in safe territory and there was nothing he could do to stop me from going further. He was only curious as to what I was doing. I was honest with him and told him I was hitchhiking and needed to go to Tokamachi. Because the driver didn’t get off the expressway at that point, I had to walk. He told me that was a no no and not to do it again, but he wasn’t upset at me at all. He said it only out of a sense of duty to the people he works for.

After that it was only a few minutes wait for the next man to stop. Tokamachi was still too far to walk to. It was a 30 minute drive from Echigo Kawaguchi. The weather was fine that day and the sunset was beautiful over scenic Tokamachi. This city is noted for its heavy snowfalls, but this year the snow wasn’t as high as last year.

Tokamachi at dusk

Tokamachi at dusk

My purpose to go to Tokamachi was to visit my good friends Keiji and Miyoko and family. The next day Keiji had business in Mitsuke city which is going back the way I came. But nevertheless because he would be passing by Ojiya City, I asked him to take me to the Ojiya Interchange. My destination was Sayama City in Saitama Prefecture. From Ojiya it is nearly twice the distance that I traveled the previous day. But I had all day to get there.

Ojiya City is close to the epicenter of a major earthquake in October 2004. About 50 people died. Had an earthquake the same strength occurred in the center of Tokyo, hundreds of thousands would have died! Roads after the earthquake were broken and cars could not pass from Niigata to Tokyo the shortest way possible.

After only a few minutes at the Ojiya Interchange, a man stopped and took me to Echigo Kawaguchi, the expressway service area I had been to the previous day. But this day I needed to go further. It was fine weather and so warm I actually took off my heavy winter coat!

It was about an hour before I finally got a good ride. Just before it a man offered to take me to Muika Machi, but it was too close and would have taken me back off the expressway had I gone with him. The driver and couple were elderly in perhaps their late 70s. They were on the way to Saitama, but would get off the expressway at a point before my destination. I asked them to take me to the Kamisato Service area which is just within the border of Saitama.

Driver and car that took me to Saitama Prefecture

Driver and car that took me to Saitama Prefecture

The entrance of the Kanetsu tunnel, the longest car tunnel in Japan.

The entrance of the Kanetsu tunnel, the longest car tunnel in Japan.

We passed through the Kanetsu tunnel which is the longest tunnel in Japan for vehicles. It’s nearly 11 kilometers long and takes about 10 minutes to pass through at the speed limit of about 100 kilometers per hour. It would take more than 2 hours to walk through it. Gasoline trucks are not allowed through it in case of accident. The tunnel passes through the highest mountains at that point and exits in Gunma Prefecture.

ust inside the Kanetsu Tunnel

Just inside the Kanetsu Tunnel

At Kamisato Service Area after a relatively short wait, a lady sitting in the passenger side of her car offered me a ride as far as Kawagoe. That was exactly the spot I hoped to get off the expressway at!

The lady was with her husband and their two elementary school children were sitting in the back. They had lived in Singapore for 3 years and could speak English! I suspected that was the reason why they picked me up recognizing me as a foreigner and probable English speaker. But though we spoke in English for a time, suddenly they both switched back to Japanese.

Couple who lived in Singapore who took me to Kawagoe.

Couple who lived in Singapore who took me to Kawagoe.

From the Kawagoe Interchange it is only a 15 minute walk to Minami Otsuka Station, and from there only 190 yen train fare to my final destination of Sayama City. From Sayama station rather than take a 220 yen bus ride to my friend’s house, I decided to hoof it and use the navigation on my Tablet PC for directions. Another 25 minutes later I was at my friend’s house just before 6 p.m. the very arrival time I was shooting for.

God is good! My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ provides all my needs!

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About James Arendt

Born in 1950 and raised in Chicago Illinois, USA.
Served in the USAF from 1970 in San Antonio, Texas, Biloxi Mississippi, Sacramento California and Asaka, Japan and honorably discharged in 1974.
Became a full time missionary for Christ and served in Russia, China and Japan for 44 years and counting.
Lives by faith in God's supply with no fixed job or income.
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