Hitchhiking Adventures in Japan

A few of the many beautiful souls who picked me up while hitchhiking.
With Russian Gennady
With Russian Gennady
1998 first time
Two teenage girls who picked me up with their father in 1998
Take and Nami
Take and Nami. Picked me up in Toyama Prefecture in 2001
From Otsu in Shiga to Ishikawa
A couple who took me from Otsu City to Ishikawa Prefecture
Two single girls in Toyama
Two single girls in Toyama
Akemi from Nagoya who picked me up in Nagano
Chieharu who took me to Kanazawa from Shiga
With Shizuka
Eiji and Miki
Eiji and Miki
College friends
College friends

Yutaka and Ayumi
Yutaka and Ayumi
Young Couple
A young couple on a coastal road of the Sea of Japan

James hitchhiking

Japan is a great country to sightsee and travel around in -- if you can afford it. Transportation costs are at least double that of the USA. It costs around US $85 just to travel 300 KM (about 190 miles) by the "bullet train" (Shinkansen in Japanese). Want to save some doe and meet people? Try hitchhiking! I do and I love it!

I first came to Japan in 1972 while in the US military stationed near Tokyo. A couple years later I decided to become a missionary to the Japanese people and tell them about Jesus Christ. Missionaries need to "live by faith". This also means to live within one's income. I needed to travel the country to "preach the Gospel" but could not always afford public transportation. My partner and I often opted to hitchhike. We usually got to our destination that day, and if we didn't, often the person that picked us up took us to their home where we spent the night and sometimes several days.

I wish I had kept a record of all my adventures hitchhiking in Japan. If I had, I would have a book by now which might have even been a best seller. LOL! At the very least, it would have made interesting reading for me in my old age. I'm 54 at the time of this post.

I define hitchhiking as getting rides from total strangers. Therefore it does not include rides from associates, friends or family.

What kind of people pick me up?

Kind people, unselfish people, people who care about others. Some are fond of Westerners, some study English and want to practice using it, some lived in the USA and want to repay the kindness they received from Americans, some have hitchhiked in their university days and understand people who do, some have broken hearts (often marital problems or broken love relationships) and wish to pour out their hearts to somebody, some are lonely, and some know they are prone to be sleepy driving on the expressway and wish to have someone to talk with in order to help them stay awake! Some drivers have correctly identified me as a Christian missionary even before I tell them so! They are usually the most open to hearing the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Bible than most Japanese. To meet such people and have an opportunity to share the Truth with them makes it worth all the discomfort of the hot sun, rain, wind and snow I sometimes face while hitchhiking.

How do I hitchhike? Read a whole page I compiled of tips!

Since August of 2003 I have been keeping statistics of my travels.

Nov. 15, 2008 update:

I made a graph of the distances hitchhiked from the year 2005 to the present. The first bar is year 2005, the second, 2006, etc. Values are in kilometers. You can see that though this year of 2008 is not yet over, I did better than the previous two years already! Unfortunately I couldn't include 2003 and 2004 in the graph because the values were mixed together on my spreadsheet document.

Distances hitchhiked in Japan from 2005 to 2008

Pages of other adventures:

Some of my other adventures hitchhiking

August 2, 2003: I am about to return to my home in Niigata Japan from Tokyo after spending 2 weeks in America. My sweetheart told me to come back quickly. She knows I love to hitchhike and save money but because she wants to see me soon and because she cannot reserve a bus for me, she told me to take the bullet train -- a train I loath to take because of the extra expense. To satisfy her and yet save a bit of money, I opted to take the train only as far as Sanjo / Tsubame instead. This saves at least 10 bucks if I hitchhike the rest of the way. And hitchhike I did! A very sweet young mother by the name of Yumiko with her young son picked me up and took me all the way to my home. I invited her in the house and she met the rest of the Family. And I told her about Christ. Upon learning that I am a missionary. she asked me to tell her 5 year old son why Jesus was hung on the cross. I tried to tell him in as simple terms as I could in the difficult Japanese language.

August 6, 2003 I hitchhiked only a short distance to Niigata city. Normally I try to hitchhike only to far destinations to save money, and to save time to travel to close destinations I normally take the train. But today I was not especially in a hurry. A middle aged housewife by the name of Kumiko picked me. She was laughing all the way at practically everything I said! She's certainly a jovial soul. Though she wasn't going as far as my destination, she willing took me there to hear the rest of what I had to say. And of course I told her about Jesus Christ.

August 14, 2003 Today it is raining but I need to go to Tokyo. Normally I don't like to hitchhike in the rain and try to avoid that as much as possible, but because my family gave me a lift to a parking area on the expressway, I decided to try. Three cars took me 2/3rds of the way to Tokyo and I took trains the rest of the way. Today was during the OBON season and so there were lots of cars on the road. The most interesting family that picked me up were foreigners from Brazil.

August 16, 2003 Now I am on my way back from Tokyo to Niigata. It is still raining so I took a train to a point in time when it stopped and hitchhiked to the expressway from there. Four cars picked me up. Three were families and one are young lovers. The most interesting part of this trip is that the last ride offered to take me to a city near my home, but after he told me about his computer problem, I offered to come to his house and fix it. He was infected with MS Blaster worm / virus. In only a few minutes I got his machine cleaned up. To return his gratitude, he and his girlfriend took me all the way back to my home and stopped over for a few minutes to meet the rest of my family.

August 28, 2003 A president of a small gardening company picked me up and took me to my destination -- right to the very door! (about 28 KM)

Sept. 5 - 8, 2003 Traveled from Niigata to Kanazawa of Ishikawa perfecture, a distance of 300 KM. In Kanazawa I met up with old friends who were going to Shiojiri in Nagano perfecture the next day, so I rode with them. (Doesn't count as hitchhiking.) After 2 nights in Shiojiri I hitchhiked to Tokyo with one of the friends, a middle aged Japanese mother together with her 2 children, a 17 year old boy and 7 month baby. It's alway more fun to travel with partners. After one night in the Tokyo area I hitchhiked back to Niigata by myself. The highlight of this trip was meeting one of those exceedingly rare individuals in Japan -- a Christian and Bible scholar.

Sept. 12-14, 2003 A lady picked me up saying that she caught something in my eyes and wished to have spiritual eye communication with me. I hope to see her again as she lives in town. Another highlight of this trip was a man who picked me up calling 10,000,000 yen worth of cloth in his car. He is a cloth wholesaler.

Sept. 27, 2003 Yutaka (20) and his girlfriend Ayumi (19) met me hitchhiking and took me all the way home. I told them that Heaven is a place where love is, a place where even if a man approaches a women who is a total stranger and walks up to her and greets her with a hug and a kiss, she would respond in like manner! (That's my idea of Heaven) Yutaka said that he wanted to go there. I told them all about Jesus and if they take Him as savior, He will bring them to Heaven. They both readily prayed with me to receive Christ. After that they visited my home and met my family. Ayumi remarked upon leaving that she would miss us. "Hurry back!" I said.

Oct. 12, 2003 A medical doctor by the name of Sugiyama picked me up and took me all the way home. Dr. Sugiyama gave me a free diagnosis of all my aches and pains. He attributed them all to old age and nothing to worry about. I asked Dr. Sugiyama about his thoughts of evolution vs. creation. He had none to give me so I gave him some of mine.

Oct. 14-17 Went to Tokyo, Ibaragi and Saitama. The highlight of the trip was waiting an hour to get finally picked up by a company president who is a member of the Rotary's club and who invited me to give a 30 minute speech. He said I was "lucky" to get a ride after only an hour. I told him I was desperately praying for a ride as it normally takes 20 minutes or less to get picked up. But because of the fact that the 280 kilometers he took me would normally take at least 3 vehicles, the hour wait was worth it!

Oct. 25 - Nov. 6 Met so many interesting people! Two college professors, one of which is an American Christian named Tom who drove me a couple hundred kilometers, one neighbor, a young girl by the name of Asami, 2 Japanese Yakuza (mafia) who treated me to lunch, one man who is a secretary of a man in the Japanese Diet, and a man I shared my faith with who gave me a small donation. I never ask them for money, never even hint I need money. Usually I tell them that I have enough for the train in an emergency and that I hitchhike because I enjoy doing so. And I really do!

Nov. 15, 2003 With Russian GennadyMet a Russian man named Gennady at Yoyeyama Service area when traveling to Kanazawa. He works as a translator and is now working on a Japanese / Russian dictionary. Gennady is a linguist and speaks English, Japanese and German but he seemed happy to speak with me in his native Russian. I was glad to have the opportunity to speak and hear the beautiful Russian language again. He took me to the city of Joestsu which is about 34 KM down the highway from were we met. Click the photo above to see the entire scene with the beautiful Sea of Japan in the background.

Nov. 21-23, 2003 Sachi and YukaWent to Tokyo and back. One highlight of this trip was a Mormon elder, a man from Salt Lake City, Utah, who rescued me from a no-win situation at Takasaki bringing me back to a place on the expressway from where I had a much better chance of travelling in the direction I needed to go! Another highlight was that I met Yuka (right) who walked up to me at Kamisato service area and offered me a ride to Takasaki. Her friend Sachi was the driver. I also met Sakarai san, (photo below) a boy who took me to me as far as Tokamachi, a small town deep in the mountains of Niigata. There I had dinner with my good friends, Keiji and Miyoko.
Sakarai san

Dec. 1-6, 2003 Traveled to Kyoto in a single day in only 4 rides. This is pretty good considering it is about 550 kilometers or about 250 kilometers more than I usually travel in a day. During this trip my friend and sponsor of this web site, Kengo Tahara, took me for the very first time in my life to the ancient capital city of Japan, Nara. I've lived in Japan over 25 years but have went to Nara before in spite of the fact it is relatively close to Osaka. I've been to Osaka countless times.

Feb. 8 - 17, 2004 Hitchhiked to Kyushu and back travelling via Tokyo to avoid the heavy snow on the Sea of Japan expressway. Here are some people and events along the way:

Feb. 11, 2004 Kazunori and Kumiko, a married couple, took me from Hyogo to Okayama, a distance about 70 KM.
Kazunori and Kumiko
Hiroyuki and Yukari (photo below) took me from Osaka on the Chugoku and Sanyo expressway to a parking area in Hyogo Prefecture a little past Himeji, a distance about 100 KM. Hiroyuki is a scientist. We had a great talk debunking the false teaching of the theory of evolution.
Me with Hiroyuki and Yukari
Feb. 9, 2004 I hitchhiked from Tokyo to Osaka on the Tomei expressway and photographed the most beautiful volcanic mountain in Japan - Mount Fuji. Winter is the best time to see it. Fuji is normally hid by clouds in summer. The photo below is taken from the Ashigara service area. Click on the photo to see an enlargement!
Mt. Fuji as seen from Ashigara SA
Mount Fuji from Ashigara SA
Also today, Yuka and Yui , both only 19 years old, picked me up at Yoro SA in Gifu and took me to as far as Kyoto.
Yuka (right) and Yui
Yuka (right) and Yui
Feb. 8, 2004 Kotae Yoshikawa (below) and his girlfriend Mika take me from Akagi in Gunma to Miyoshi parking area just north of Tokyo. Kotae is training to become an actor.
Kotae Yoshikawa and Mika
Kotae Yoshikawa and Mika
Check out the rest of this trip to Kyushu and back.

April 30 - May 3, 2004 My hitchhike adventure to Nagoya and the traumatic return!
Jun 5, 2004 I hitchhiked to Tokyo and met Itou san, a man who picked me up when hitchhiking in another part of town last year. This time his wife and child was with him! It is rare to meet the same people by chance a second time. I think this is about the 4th or 5th time out of thousands of people.
itou (6K)
Mr. and Mrs. Itou and daughter

Also that day I met the couple in the photo below:
5may2004couple (4K)
Normally I don't like people to go out of their way for me by requesting drivers at rest stops to take me further along on my journey, but when the lovely lady in the photo above began to go from driver to driver to ask for me, I knew she would have no trouble at all finding somebody. The second man she talked to was glad to give me a lift.