Hitchhiking to Kyushu

So I’m on the road again, this time exploring the beauty of the countryside Japan. First of all I had to make it from Narita airport to Tokyo Hackerspace which is located in the city center. I’ve changed the rest of my cash, luckily I had enough for the ticket (around 1100 yen) and I have also managed to get the direction right, with just one small “mistake” on the way. I can confirm that the trains were really on time, in other words “sharp on minute” and cetainly clean. What I really liked was the way of labeling the stations. Each track had all the stations numerically labeled (in addition to names) starting the first ones, plus first letter of the first station added  (at least that is my observation), each station was also announced in audio and has also English text added. In the other words it was really hard to get lost but yes I’ve managed! My first observations of Japanese girls resulted in admiration. All my life I’m fan of slim or athletic brunets, well this is the heaven! Anyway back on the track with a bit of luck I’ve found the hacker center, because of various reasons it doesn’t have any special sign on the doors, and it is hard to guess red colour entrance in the middle of the night …

I’ve spend the night in the hackerspace catching up on the emails and the next day I’ve been invited for a really nice ramen by John to the local restaurant. Based on what I’ve read about Japaese dining and under Johns supervision I’ve tried to do my best and truly everything went nice and smooth till I loudly expressed my thanks by Italian “cin cin” which in Japanese means penis, well once again I’ve managed to became a center of attention … Later on I’ve managed to transfer my paypal funds to yens therefore allowing me to book a ticket to Okayama going with the night bus. To find the terminal which was hidden in the underground parking lot was not easy but well I’ve asked (and not once) for Orion bus and I’ve succeeded. The travel was fine, I was really nicely surprised with the fact that whole inside of the passanger area was completely covered by curtains which were closed by mandatory for the night (remember night bus) also on the drivers end, so no lights from the approaching vehicles. Very cool was automatic distribution of free drink, which I’ve to say really got me because I’ve kind of expected something like a orange juice or Pepsi, and voila, I got some kind of really “specific” green tea (maybe with tofu flavor, that could be it for the surprise …). Another part of the gear was the inflatable pillowcase around your neck and blinders or how you call it for your eyes. The breaks at the fuel stations were regular, there were no toilets on the bus but I did not missed them. One way or other I’ve made it to Okayama for some 5500 yen and if you ask why I did not go further, well lets be honest Kyushu is not exactly around the corner from Okayama, sincerely, I was close to being “money free” again so it was so simple.

In this first town “on he road” I’ve wondered around for a bit, deciding at the end to take direction North towards Tottori. The reasoning was that I’ll be hitchhiking through the less inhabited regions which is generally much more easy than through towns (correct), by the coast line which I love (again correct), so not too much difference except the distance (wrong). The major condition which differed compared the “Southern way” through Hiroshima was the temperature, or in the other words the snow, freezing, ice etc I’ve found out quite pretty soon. Well I’ve walked quite easily out of town, which was nice and clean, sometimes a bit of plastic garbage around the road but much better than most of the Europe witch exception of Norway (at least to my knowledge). I did not have to wait for the first ride for too long and to my surprise I got a lift from a female university student. I  can already say that during my hitchhiking I got maybe 1:4 ration females to males lifts which is great, best which I got till now compared to any other country. Also the time spend waiting for the lift was very short in general, something around 30 minutes in average. Well long story short four rides or so and I was in Tottori, crossing the mountains which were under the snow, the town on the coast was fine. I’ve camped outside on the “children playground” but it started to rain and snow during the night, so I’d to move thankfully finding old wrack yard and abandoned boat cabin to sleep under. I woke up quite nice and fresh and walked to the coast where I continued hitchhiking. It was really nice spot with beautiful view, unfortunetaly a bit cold wind coming my way but  I did not waited for my first ride of the day for too long. That day I’ve developed a simple system of conversation with the drivers where I would point on the bridge saying “hashi” they would note, I would repeat few other words like crossroad, traffic lights etc and after that I would start to “fish for new vocablulary”. It worked quite pretty well because  I could repeat the words which I new easily five times during the day and no one was tired to hear them again. That day I made it to Matsue which scenery I liked a lot especially the lakes around the town and water channels. I got a little bit further out of town before the evening deciding to sleep in the rice field, it was nice sunny day and everything seemed OK. Well it was around minus five in the night and in the morning I so so managed to get my back packed how frozen I was. I had slight hypothermia, I think bit of sunburn from the previous day and certainly hunger so the hitchhiking was not so much fun because after two or three minutes standing I felt dizzy and I had to sit down, not feeling well. The amount of the food which I ate during the last two days was something around half of the bag of muzli (granula) (around 200 g), apple and half of the creamed coconut, the last was really saver and great cooking ingredient by the way!

Before I go any further I should mention the impressions which this trip is starting to make on me. One thing in my life which goes really close to my heart is the nature and in which state I find it. When I was travelling the Central America the nature was beautiful, the kind of tropical and subtropical jungal style with monkeyes screeming in the trees, huming birds zooming around you in the night and everything streaming with life and wigor. However on the other hand the impact of human was quite profound so you could see a lots of forest burning, huge amounts of warious waste around the roads and rivers, the later being very often hugely poluted. I never forget the smell of one cutoff in Ciudad de Mexio when I was coming back from Teotihuacan and it was the worst experience of this kind in my life and  I just could not believe that someone could do something like that to the water, which is together with air my major element. In Japan so far I am impressed particullary with the mountains. They are all around you, surrounding you in the way that you are becoming one with them. They are green if you are close and they turn first light blue changing to the hazy darkish blue and grey siluets farther you are from them. Nearly each walley has it’s river which is running swiftly over the stones and small dams with fish leaders towards one or the oher ocens. Up to now they were all really clean reminding me Norway and Alaska, the later especially. I just like the scenery of waterfalls splashing on the rocks in the whitish mist which is so beautiful against thhe amazing bluish colour of the stems bambo forest, small wooden shrines with ancient stone statues standing near by in the other words I can not wait when the spring and summer comes and I plan to be around for year or so to see it.

But back to my “hypothermia” again. Well thanks to the God the first gentleman who gave me a ride within an half an hour or so made a comment if I’m hungry and cold and after the no surprising yessss, yessss answer he got me a hot coffee and tea in cans (local speciality) and package of sandwiches. Hour and half later I felt nice and fresh, partly also to the fact that I’ve found some “abandoned” orange and khaki trees to plunder and the sun was “out in force”. This is by the way another fact which I still do not understand completely here. I would be passing various regions and everywhere I would see orange, lemon and khaki trees with fruits which is ripe or even falling on the ground and no one touches it. I’ve asked if it is for decoration or what is the matter but the best answer which I got till now was that they are kind of wild so the flavor is not so good. Well I’m now in Haki doing very detailed every day research on the phenomena (mostly under the dark with an excuse of walking the dog) and it is true that most of the fruits are not very tasty but some samples were worth of the effort. One thing which I do not understand why people plant cultivates which taste badly. We do have apple, pear and cherry trees in Czech Republic as alleys around many country roads but quite all are cultivated and tasty varieties. You know when you take the time to plant it there, prune it, cut the grass around and so on, why not to make it handy or tasty lets say, right? Well different country different habit, once I find out the true reason for both not picking and sragne varieties, I’ll let you know. It could be also a protection of an original varieties for the “genepool” purposes but I do not know.

Any away I’ve moved more and more South, watching the beauty of the rice fields spreading from horizon to horizon realizing the close to the zero erosion problems thanks to the level surface which is fundamental for them comparing it to the fields on the hills sides in my country which loose so much soil after every major rain fall. This scenery was really amazing in one mountain valley by natural onsen where you could see just a small traditional village resting on the side of the hills keeping the fertile land for the rice fields and orchards. It was also a place of one of my best lifts of the journey. Gentleman around forty or forty five gave me a lift to Yamaguchi where I was suppose to wait for him for few hours before he finishes in his job (between 7-8 pm as is in Japan quite usual) so I can join him for a dinner with his family and spend the night. I was waiting for him gladly because he drooped me in the public onsen where you could submerge your feet in to the hot natural water and chat with the people who were taking this wonderful refreshment from their childhood. I’ve visited several othe onsens till now and because I’m dedicated sauna lover, I’ll write about that topic more in a separate article comparing it to the European style of spa which I’ve experienced around Western and Central Europe, hot springs like Harbin Hot Springs in California which were great and probably my favorite Liard River Hot Springs in British Columbia which are just amazing, completely out door and natura and Central American temazcals which are very satysfying example of radiation heat based saunas. But back to the Japan, Keiske san has returned at 8 pm sharp and we moved to his place which was some 30 km far. His family was really nice, his very nice wife, daughter around thirteen, boy around ten and the youngest boy had lets say five I would say. I took onsen first and after that I had a great dish prepared by Keiske who loved to cook so he made for me his speciality motsunabe. The food was great, I had a beer with it and we drank shōchū so at he end of the evening I was bit afraid if I do not have to climb the stairs for upstairs on my four. However everything went OK and I slept nicely on the tatami in the traditional room having a reallly great evening.

Next day it was raining but without knowing that yet it was my last day of hitch hiking anyway because with a bit of help from bus and train I’ve made it to the Kokonoe. The last few hundreds kilometers were nice, I’ve found a really tasty orange tree which made me particulary happy. The Shimonoseki and Kitakyushu I liked a lot, especially the later one which I kind of discovered more than I would really like to in that time because I was wondering around looking for the way and right spot to hitchhike in the rain. However luck was with me so I got a nice ride all the way to Oita where I’ve found out that I’ve to make it to Hita for better connection. It was my first trip on the train in Japan and except that I’ve managed to lost both my umbrella and ticket it was really enjoyable. Thanks to one old lady I’ve made it to the bus stop to Kokonoe, she even got me a can of coffee to keep me cheered up. The bus arrived after seven pm so it was quite dark therefore I can not say too much about the last part of my trip, except that it is custom to pay for the bus when you leave it and that I had exactly 80 yen to my disposition after this last purchase. The nice thing about it was that my hosts wife Reiko san was waiting for me just opposit of the bus station, so after all the adventure I have made it again!

So we are nearly at the end of this letter, the next report is going to be about my stay with Tokimatsu Kadzuhiro and his farm which was freezing but great! I will tell you more about how I prepared miso, konjak, did some bamboo elimination and tasted many interesting things like amazake, doburoku (traditional home brew sake) and enjoyed Kokonoe’s famous onsens!

If you would like to keep me nice and fat you can support my 80 yen budget here, I’ll certainly appreciate it because I’m low on funds for fermentations and I’m way behind on the payments of my health insurance which is a mandatory issue for citizens of Czech Republic.

Have a great time where ever you are,

Sincerely,

Frantisek

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~ by algoldor on February 9, 2012.

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