February 1, 2011: I started out very well with the first ride in my trip to Noda city in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. The purpose of this trip was to attend a fellowship meeting at 7PM. It was good weather and I left home at a very good time, just after 10AM. Tokyo is 300 kilometers away but it usually takes me less than 6 hours, only half a day. I found that weekends are best for hitchhiking, but today was a weekday, a Tuesday. I finally arrived in Noda at 8:25PM!
After waiting only a minute, the first driver took me all the way to Sanjo city, the entrance of the Hokuriku Expressway. He kindly went out of his way to do so. From there I took a 180 bus ride to Sakae parking area on the Hokuriku. The preponderance of the traffic was local. Hardly anybody was going to the Kanto plain.
After waiting at Sakae PA in Sanjo for over 90 minutes, I accepted a ride from a young single couple to Ozumi parking area. This is further down the road but just past the Nagaoka junction going towards Joetsu city which is not the direction I needed to go. However I knew I could walk to the other side of the expressway and catch traffic that could go toward Kanto.
I found my situation at Ozumi even worse than it was in Sakae! There was much snow and ice in the parking area, and most of the traffic was going back in the direction I just came from. After waiting another hour and a half, I accepted a ride from a lady going to Nagaoka city. Normally I would not want to get off the expressway in Nagaoka, but the situation was so that my only hope was to hitchhike from Nagaoka down National Highway route 17 and get back on the expressway — this time the Kan’etsu — to catch a car to Kanto.
The lady took me only as far as National Highway route 8, too far to walk to route 17. Snow was pilled up so high along the road I had very little room to stand between it and passing cars. A police car approached me and the officer said in very good English, “Don’t enter this road! There are many truck accidents here!” Oh my, things could hardly be worse! It was already past 2PM and I have yet 250 kilometers to go. I couldn’t walk further down the road without disobeying the police officer. The only option was to stand at a rather poor intersection with more room to stand hoping to catch a car. Cars whizzed pass me. Drivers coming to route 8 from the road perpendicular to it were only 2 or 3 every few minutes.
Finally after waiting there about 20 minutes, an older man in a pickup truck took pity on me and offered me a ride. He went out of his way to take me to route 17.
At route 17 I caught the next ride within a minute! The driver offered to take me to Yamaya Parking area on the Kan’etsu. I had never been to Yamaya before because it is a rather small parking area with few cars. It took a a while to find it. Snow in that area is one of the deepest in all of Japan. Walls of snow higher than our heads lined the roads everywhere making navigation harder than it would have been without them.
The driver, being a local man, was able to figure out Yamaya’s location and took me to the back entrance. As soon as I got there, I saw a man and told him I needed to go to Kanto. He looked at me warily and asked me who I was, and if I didn’t have anything dangerous in my luggage. He was a Yamazaki bread truck driver with a load of bread going all the way to Tokorozawa in Saitama and offered me a ride to Higashi Tokorozaka station. But because of company rules, he couldn’t go any faster than 80 kilometers an hour which meant at least 40 minutes longer than most cars would take me. But in this case it was a “bird in the hand” situation and I was happy just to get to Noda. It turned out being an hour and 25 minutes late wasn’t such a big problem after all, for the meeting continued to 10PM, and I had a good time and made new friends. The trip was worth the effort.
My return trip was the exact opposite of the previous day. It only took one car with hardly any waiting to get all the way back home. A 25 year old man named Takuma who sells wasabi offered me a ride to Niigata station, but then decided to take me a bit further to my area.
The first hour of our conversation was just asking him questions about his life and background. It didn’t seem to be leading to anything deeper. I feel I own to every driver who picks me up a message of Salvation in knowing the Author of life, Jesus Christ, but because Takuma wasn’t asking me anything about what I do, I didn’t see any openings to the subject of Biblical / spiritual things. Finally I got the inspiration to ask him if he knew the story of the Garden of Eden. This worked and lead to deeper talk! Most Japanese are open to hearing bible stories, and Genesis chapters 1-3 is a good place to start because it explains so many things about why the world is as it is today.