After a few weeks of travelling in Japan, we realised that the biggest expense in our travel budget was transport. We have taken the point to stay longer at places and not run around so much (true for all budget backpacking) and still the transport gives a huge dent in our travel budget.
A typical train ride for example from Tokyo to Kamakura, which takes only 1 hour and 30 mins, will cost around 1,100 yen (as of 2016), and that is not even one of the crazy prices of Japan’s famous Shinkansen (bullet trains). A ride on Shinkansen for example from Hakone to Nagoya for less than 1 hours 45 mins, would cost almost 10,000 yen for it! After our first shocking Shinkansen, we took more buses as it is the cheaper option.
But there is an even cheaper transport option and you cannot get cheaper than that – it is free! And that is hitchhiking! Yes, hitching a car ride from the people to get from one place to another. It was a novel idea for some of us while for most of the people that we’ve spoken to, it is apparently a dangerous idea. I cannot say the same for everywhere else in the world, but I have personally hitchhiked in Japan and found it a safe and pleasant experience. In fact, it was one of the highlights of our seven weeks long trip in Japan. Hitchhiking is where for the first time, we get real and direct contact with the local Japanese people.
At first, I was not sure if they are just shy or indifference to us, judging from our various encounters with them, mostly at the stores or in restaurants. Later, after our hitchhiking experiences, we found that they are actually a bunch of friendly people who found it difficult to express themselves to us in English or any other foreign language that you are using. They are keen to talk to us as much as we are to them but unfortunately we have to bridge the language barrier first. Although I am not sure if it speaks to all the Japanese people, it does speak to those who are willing to reach out to give us a ride and who is brave enough to “deal” with us foreigners.
One of our best encounters was when a family, mother, father and two sons, picked us up on our way to the south of Japan. It helps that the father was speaking good English as he had worked in the U.S before, thus creating better connections. Not only did they took us together with them on their day trip to a vinegar farm, they also treated us to a Sushi buffet before dropping us off directly in front of the hostel. With this sweet family, we have learnt so much about Japanese culture and hospitality, and I must say they are the epitome of it.
Our trip to Japan turns out to be even more fun that it was because we tried something new and different from the rest of the tourists. It was not only a way to save money in Japan, it turns out to be a good way to get to know the locals intimately. So if you are on a budget or out for a local experience, give hitchhiking a try!
Check out our Top 6 Tips on Hitchhiking in Japan to find out how you can experience true Japan hospitalities and of course, get free transports as well!
Photo credits from top: hans-johnson and Rachel