I was invited to do some work for a hotel in the city of Ajigasawa on the northern coast of the Sea of Japan in Aomori Prefecture. The hotel people treated me like a king and served me a dinner of what the Japanese would consider to be a gourmet specialty – half of which was biblically unclean seafood which I couldn’t eat! But the breakfast was fantastic, a smorgasbord type of setting from which I could choose what I liked. The hotel paid the 10,000 yen ($90) train fare to get me there, but as usual I always opt to hitchhike as much as possible to save money getting back home. I couldn’t leave Ajigasawa until 11:30AM the next day to begin my race with the sun to try to catch the last ride before dark. In the summer I have two extra hours to hitchhike, but I knew it would still be pretty tough considering the distance of 450 plus kilometers to Niigata, and most of it on a regular road.
This trip brought me one ride over the 2000th mark of the number of rides I caught hitchhiking since keeping records from Aug. 2, 2003. Since then, I’ve traveled 97.900 kilometers.
After waiting over 40 minutes for the first ride, a couple picked me up and took me as far as Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture, a good distance of 100 kilometers! They even bought me lunch, a bowl of Ramen noodles.
After that a lady took me about 40 kilometers toward Akita city. After her, a second lady with a cute little Terrier dog took me just past Akita city. This lady was very talkative. And it turns out that she knows a person who picked me up in 2006, Makoto Hasegawa, the captain of a professional basketball team in Niigata! She says that Mr. Hasegawa comes to visit her house from time to time because his native town is Akita and she has something to do with promoting basketball in Japan. This sport is not nearly as popular in Japan as it is in America. The average player works for a salary no better than an office worker in a regular company.
The 4th driver works for the income tax bureau. He was friendly, but not too talkative, and not very responsive to my questions about his work. But he took me with 10 minutes to spare to Sakata station from where I caught a train the rest of the way home. It was 7:30PM, already dark (no daylight savings time in Japan) and the train from Sakata City was the last one that day I could catch to avoid hitchhiking in the dark the rest of the way. I saved 2/3rds of the train fare I would have paid had I taken a train all the way.