Hiroshima to Kyoto (travel day 3) part one


Katerine and Hagia, wrote my new hitchhiking sign (please take me towards Kyoto) and helped me find a good hitch-from spot.

Armed with this sign, as produced by the two beaming Filipino workers at the Hiroshima hostel. (In Japan learning both Japanese and English – impressive), I headed out into the baking Hiroshima sunlight. I did another circuit of Peace Park to appreciate it while not in darkness or extraordinarily tired.

I walked a little towards the north to get myself on a good main road. Studying the traffic pattern at some lights, I picked my moment well, finding a suitable ride at the lights. I told him I just wanted to get to the highway if I could, he agreed and I was off within seconds in the first car I’d approached that day. A personal record I’m sure.

Nobuya, for that was his name took me a good distance up to the main road on his way to work in a nearby town.

Nobuya (hitch no. 4)

The next while – something like an hour probably, was quite, quite gruelling. The intense sunlight quite got to me as I made my way on foot up the main road, thumb out quite fruitlessly, not a single car picked me up. Perhaps to counterbalance my early good luck. Eventually, just as my iced-water reserve was running low, a chap named Tamura picked me up. Sadly I don’t have a picture of him as I had to hop out on the hard shoulder just before the tollbooth for the major highway. During our quick journey we discussed his like of several English things, such as Queen (the band, not the old lady), James Bond, and his recital of the ‘She Sells Seashells’ tongue twister.

For my part I did my best to remember a Korean tongue twister. Here it is, reproduced for your pleasure, my own romanisation underneath.

간장공장 공장장은 장 공장장이고 된장공장 공장장은 강 공장장이다.

(ganjang gongjang gongjangjangun jang gongjangjangi go duinjang gongjang gong jangjangun gang gongjangjangida)

Which means:

The manager of the soy sauce factory is Manager Jang and the manager of the soy paste factory is Manager Gang.

As I said, he dropped me off on the hard shoulder, thus began the biggest pain in the arse in getting a ride I’ve had yet. I stood with my sign as the Fukuoka sensei instructed, I guess the toll booth people tolerated it for 30 mins or so because after a while I was told in the politest possible hand signals to take it back down onto the road, where it was more legal. Walking on the hard shoulder is scary. The heat was still kicking it and I was still pretty unable to catch a lift from whatever position I angled myself. It was also two hours since the first ride had dropped me off, so I took a break in a nearby department store. I then had the fantastic idea of using some of their road atlases and service station directories – which I’m pretty sure I found only after wondering if they existed.

The service station directory was a massive help and even went into details such as how big it was and what services/stores were available. I took photos and notes about each service station on the nearby highways going towards and away from Kyoto, deciding that if I couldn’t get a ride going one way, I could try going the other, then swapping highway side at the next service station. (assuming they were paired, in retrospect that seems like a rash assumption). After another 30 minutes or so I’d managed to do just that.

I got a ride going west. He dropped me off at the only service station for miles at, as I’ve said, a station without an opposite number on the other side of the road. I decided that I had spent enough time trying to get out of Hiroshima to head back towards it now. Actually, I have a bit of a difficulty in this way. I get very irritated if I have to backtrack. It might have even been a longer path but I decided to take the Northern road.

It turns out the road was pretty much the same distance, possibly slightly longer for climbing into the mountains. The next lift took a while coming. After approaching cars pretty fruitlessly for a while in unrelenting sun, I rested for a while on one of those sheltered raised platforms you see dotted about Korea and Japan. Some older Japanese ladies took pity on me it seemed and gave me a rice-ball, a banana and some sandwiches.

Free lunch - the rice ball (between the banana and the sandwiches) had some bitter, tart fruit in the middle of that took quite a liking to.

Eventually I got a ride with these two happy chaps. Hiro and Joe.

Hiro and Joe (hitch no. 7)

They were travelling salesmen, selling some sort of grabbing-arm thing for surgeons. They told me that they didn’t think I could get to Tokyo on time. I didn’t worry too much about getting to Tokyo, I didn’t have any commitments there, if I could get back to Fukuoka, I’d have been happy with any destination. It didn’t make me too confident for my day’s travel through inhospitable and frankly hostel-less countryside though.

Once again the Japanese Hitchhiking Domino Theory panned out and they spent a good while finding and negotiating my ride onwards with this nice old man called Mr Isida (or Isida-san if you want to be polite japanese style).

Mr. Isida (hitch no. 8)

His English wasn’t great so we spent a lot of the journey in quiet, with the odd bout of basic English. With the scenery it was quite relaxing – all mountains and forests and valley villages. He told me he had two sons 18 and 26. We also talked about Kanji (Chinese letters), he wrote some, resting on the steering wheel, which was slightly unnerving because he was still driving. He taught me 英国 which means Britain. I can actually read that in Korean Hanja now which is quite nice (young-guk).

The ride with Isida-san was actually incredibly helpful, he took me a full 240km (149 miles) down the road.

—-

I’ll continue the rest in a second post, this one is pretty damn long already.

Advertisements