January 22: This morning it snowed constantly, not too hard but enough to make me want to take a train the first part of this 500 kilometer plus journey. My destination was a port town in beautiful warm and usually sunny Shizuoka Prefecture. I knew the enough though it continued to snow in Niigata, on the other side of the mountains separating Niigata and the Kanto Plain, it would be sunny with little or no snow.
The train took me 30 kilometers to the Tsubame Sanjo train station which is next to the Hokuriku Expressway. From there I caught a 180 yen bus to the Sakae Parking Area. It connects to the Kan’estu expressway, a straight shot to Tokyo.
After only a few minutes wait I met a young married couple who were on their way to Muika Machi. They took me to Echigo Kawaguchi Service area, one of the snowiest areas of all of Japan. After I while I started to regret accepting that ride because I had a relatively long wait to catch the next ride, about 40 minutes. I had a warm coat and wasn’t cold but it continued to snow as I stood in the parking area. Finally another young couple with a 3 year old son offered me a ride to Tokyo.
It’s easy to hitchhike to Tokyo from Niigata. The trick is to somehow get on the other side of Tokyo to the Tomei expressway which runs to Nagoya. This couple was going to Yokohama which meant they would be going in the direction I needed to go, and they took me to the Kohoku Parking Area which is on the Tomei — as good as it gets! It was just past 3PM, but now I was in a warmer dry area with a blue sky overheard and much traffic passing by. Success looked pretty certain.
Two more drivers took me as far as Ashigara Service Area with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji toward the north. At Ashigara I saw an unusual looking dog. The owner said it is a Portuguese breed. I found on the internet what I think is the breed, a Portuguese water dog. But the dog on that page sure does look cuter than the one I saw!
It was now 5PM and soon to get dark. From experience I knew Ashigara was not an ideal place to hitchhike at. The traffic splits into two parts of the parking area. Standing too close to the place they merge was not fruitful because the cars are going too fast at that point. Mt. Fuji slowly faded into the darkness and I began to despair wondering if I would make it to Hamamatsu that day. I still had 200 kilometers left. There was plenty of traffic going at least that far or further, but everyone was ignoring me.
By 5:45 PM is was already dark. I stood in a place with a bright lamp and tried to make eye-contact with the drivers passing by standing as close to the passing traffic as I deemed to be safe. One thing I’ve learned though the years is that no matter what the conditions I find myself in, the drivers who truly have a heart for those in need will stop no matter what. It’s usually just a question of time. And of course there is the “God factor”. I find when I have to wait the longest, it’s usually because God has somebody special He wants me to meet. And today again it was so. At 6:40PM a man in his 30s on his way to Nagoya offered me a ride. His name is Mr. Inukai – a rather rare family name in Japan. It literally means “Dog care”.
Mr. Inukai is an interesting man because he had a problem of mental illness but largely recovered from it. He still has a problem with speaking – something I can identify with because I also have had Moses’ handicap as writen in Exodus 10:4 being ‘slow of speech and of a slow tongue” At one point Mr. Inukai said he didn’t want to talk anymore because his month was tried; it took him considerable effort to communicate orally which is something I understand very well.
I got to my destination in a good time, just before 9PM.