3/22/2012

Japan: Blue (Well Red) Light Special

A Rusty Bike with Dry Rot Tires, No Seat, and a Lovely Child`s Seat in the Back, Perfect for a Pack.

Question: What is the best way to start a five month stint in a foreign country?

Answer:  Getting the cops called on you the first full day you`re there.

Story: After leaving the airport in Narita (a good 80 kms from Tokyo proper), I spent the night in another free hotel. I jumped a fence outfront, in the morning, to get to my first hitch spot. It was right after a toll booth. "Perfert," I thought. All the cars were going nice and slow.
I've riden in old refurb taxis and even with off-duty drivers, but my first ever hitch ever in Japan was with an on-duty taxi driver. Sans a cheesy LED grill, the guy was basically driving KIT. The thing had automatic doors! They could both open and shut on their own [Subtext: "I'm going to love this country."].
So, Night Rider brought me to a 'Parking' (glorified rest-stops within the super highly taxed toll rode/interstate system of Japan). As soon as I was there, I knew I had gotten lucky. In my research of Japan (and international hitchhiking in general), I had learned that hitching on the Expressway was super illegal. Like, get your ass arrested fast illegal. Anywho, lesson learned.
A single hitch soon brought me right to Tokyo Central. I'm not to big on cities, though; plus, I was on a mission. After about an hour, I was on a ¥380/$4.75 train north (Note: Tokyo all the way to Sendai via Train- ¥1,0000/$145). My stop was Higashi-Kawaguchi, the farthest north along the Tohoku Expressway that the city trains can take you.
After finding the express way, it took me a solid 20 minute hike to reach the next on-ramp. I put my bag a couple yards infront of a sign that, in Japanese, read: "NO PEDESTRIANS!, NO BICYCLISTS!, NO MOPEDS! Beyond This Point."
After about 40 minutes of bummy lucky, I saw the swirling lights. As to be expected, they were for me. What ensued was nearly 30 minutes of broken English on their part (they even tried to have me speak to another officer on the phone), sub-toddler linguistic abilities on my part (remember, no spoken English, no exceptions), and a few oddly drawn pictures, I had deduced this: I was not breaking the law, they took down my information but I was not getting a ticket, they were not going to let me resume hitching, and they refused to drive me to the next 'Parking.'
With no other viable option, I set out northbound, on foot. I soon discovered why they felt no need to take me to the next 'Parking.' It was 16 kms up the road. Without my trusty bike trolley, I doubt I would have made it there by sundown.
After a good nights sleep, Sendai was reached by noon the next day.


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Location: 日本, 宮城県仙台市

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