Monday, July 18: From Aomori city in northern Tohoku I needed to go in one day to Noda city, Chiba Prefecture, a distance of around 700 kilometers. It took me one hour to walk from my friend’s house in Aomori to Aomori Chuo Interchange, the beginning of the Tohoku expressway, and it took yet another hour of waiting to catch the first ride. It was worth all the effort considering the very first car took me 70% of the 677 kilometer length of the Tohoku expressway! The driver was a mother, 30 some years old, Mrs. Takahashi with her two sons, Raima (5) and Shuga (3).
When I first saw Mrs. Takahashi waiting for the traffic signal just before the expressway entrance to turn green, I thought, “No chance with her! She has two little kids in the back seat!” And so I was therefore surprised when she turned into the gas station by the expressway entrance where I was standing and waved to me to come.
The front passenger seat was filled with belongings. Mrs. Takahashi had to arrange things a bit to make room for me and my suitcase. I greeted the boys and they were both very friendly. The older of the two, Raima, was quite talkative throughout much of the trip.
Mrs. Tahahashi said, “Let’s have a good trip!” I was so happy to know she was going all the way to Nasu City in Tochigi Prefecture. This would take me past the big city of Sendai which is sometimes hard to cross.
It was the second time Mrs. Takahashi picked up a hitchhiker. The first time was with her husband. She took a young Japanese man toward his destination. I was glad too to be of some service to her in helping her keep her two boys from fussing with each other too much and making too much of a racket. Every time I turned around to talk to them, they would calm down.
Mrs. Takahashi seemed to be in a hurry to go home and often approached a speed of 140 kilometers per hour! “Don’t worry,” she said. “The car won’t go any faster than this!”
I had a receptive audience of 4 hours to share with what the Holy Scriptures have to say about God, creation of the universe, the history of Adam and Eve in the Garden, why people became what they have become, why evil exists, why we are all criminals in the sight of our Creator, and why we need to be saved. Mrs. Takahashi was impressed to know that Adam put the blame on his wife for eating the “apple.” Most people in the West have heard all these things in church much of their lives, and they have either accepted them as fact, or rejected it all to the point they don’t care to listen anymore. It was the very first time for Mrs. Takahashi to hear it, and because she seemed interested I was glad to keep sharing more. I’ve hardly ever been turned down by a Japanese person an offer to share with them stories from the Bible. I can only think of a handful of times out of 10s of thousands of people I’ve talked to in the 34 years I’ve lived in Japan.
We stopped for a restroom break and Raima held out his hand toward mine for me to hold hands with him to walk with him and his mother toward the parking area facilities. He then followed his mother into the restroom.
The next day at the Miyoshi Service area on the Kanetsu Expresway heading home, I met another young mother with her son. They were from the USA and are now living near Yokota AFB. There were many American service personnel with their dependents around who were on their way back to the Air Force base after a field trip. I told the lady I’m about to hitchhike to Niigata. She didn’t believe me at first. I showed her the picture of Mrs. Takahashi and sons that I took with my cell phone. “It wouldn’t happen in America” the lady replied. I tend to think that Japan is now, “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, more than the USA is, don’t you? America used to be so back in the 19th century.