On June 8, 2012: I hitchhiked 402 kilometers from Majima Station in Murakami, Niigata Prefecture, to Aomori City. The drivers consisted of one elderly couple, two recently married young men, a man about my age driving a large truck carrying tons of rice, a car with 3 ladies and a man, and finally, a middle age lady who took me to the very door of my destination.
Hitchhiking from Niigata to Aomori in the summer is much easier than in the winter. I’m always in a race with the sun to catch the last ride before dark. In the summer I have 2 extra hours to work with. In the winter I often can only hitchhike as far as Odate city in Akita, 100 kilometers short of the goal.
I began hitchhiking on Route 345 which runs along the coast of the Sea of Japan. It’s a rather desolate area with not much traffic. However the drivers are usually going at least 20 or more kilometers.
After only a few minutes the first car stopped, an elderly couple. They took me as far as Nesumigasaki, an area with many scenic views. I thought to walk from there to a large parking area at Atsumi Onsen, a popular spa visited by many tourists. But after seeing a road sign that said Atsumi Onsen is 10 kilometers further up the road, I quit walking. I had already walked about 3 kilometers.
After only a few minutes after I stopped walking, a young man named Motomu who works at Kanshiwazaki Nuclear Power plant picked me up and took me all the way to Akita City, 170 kilometers further or 42% of the way toward my goal! Motomu was on his way back to his home town to visit his parents. Soon his company will transfer him to an oil rig on a small island near Australia. I asked him if his job was dangerous, “Yes,” he replied. But at least he’ll be able to take his wife with him.
Motomu dropped me off at Route 7 in the center of Akita city. The traffic there was very heavy. Holding out a paper sign showing the town of my destination is ineffective in such a situation. I found it’s best just to hold out a thumb and hope for a curious driver to stop and ask me where I want to go. I’m happy just to get a ride to the edge of town from where drivers will be going longer distances.
In only a few minutes a car with 4 elderly people pulled up, 3 ladies and a man. They found it strange to see a foreigner hitchhiking. It was their first time ever to pick up a hitchhiker. They took me to the Oiwake, outside of Akita city.
From Oiwake, a newly wed young man took me to Odate City, about 90 kilometers further. It was only 2:45 p.m. when we arrived!
I stood close to a Lawson’s convenience store on Route 7 and held out a sign that says, “Aomori.” To my surprise, a large truck stopped! It’s quite rare for such a big rig to pull over to the side of the road for me. The driver said he would take me to Hirosaki city, but ended up going further than I expected and went to the Aomori city Route 7 bypass! It was now 5 p.m.
I continued to walk further up Route 7. I was now in actual walking distance to my goal! But it was still pretty far and would have taken me 3 more hours had I walked it. The final driver was a lady who went out of her way a few kilometers to take me to the very door of my friend’s house.