Top 6 Tips on Hitchhiking in Japan

Traveling for 7 weeks in Japan on a budget got us into being creative with our transport. As we realize that transport costs cause the biggest dent in our budget few weeks in, we decided to try out a free transportation in Japan – hitchhiking! Being both newbies in the hitchhiking department, we got ourselves some stress, but in the end, it turns out to be mostly fun, excitements and good adventures.

After numerous attempts and success in hitchhiking in Japan, we have a few useful tips to share with you! Here are some of our personal tips and guide to hitchhiking in Japan:

Get the signs of where you are going to write in Kanji
First of all, get yourself a sign to your next destination written in Kanji (the traditional and formal form of writing in Japanese). Many times, we tried to imitate the writings by looking at the sign boards or looking it up online. Once we also walked into the convenience store and asked the nice man at the counter to help us write it (after a lot of hand gestures for explanation).

Hitchhiking in Japan

Hitchhiking in Japan – get a sign

Always put the sign to the nearest next city or town
Besides the sign to your final destination, it is also good to have a sign to the next nearest city or popular spot that is on the way. With this, you will have a higher chance to get pick up whether by long or short distance travellers. In a day of a hitchhiking, you would most likely change several cars if the distance is long. Once your kind driver drops you off at the highway rest stop, ask him to help you write to the next nearest hotspot and voila you have another new sign!

Try to get yourself into the highway rest stop in any way you can
Every time, our hardest part is always at the beginning. We usually stand on at the main road leading out of the city into the highway, but let’s do the math here, probably less than 5% of the people are going out of the city and even less than that are going in our direction, cause most exits go both ways. In most times it takes forever just to get someone to pick us up even on a busy road but once you get on the highway and onto the rest stops, the next ride is almost just a few minutes away. This is because from here, everyone is going in your direction and many would probably be able to take you, at least, some part of the way towards your destination.

Hitchhiking in Japan rest stop

Hitchhiking heaven – Japan’s rest stop.

Try to stand near a traffic light or intersection
If by all means you still have to find a spot to start with your hitchhiking adventure, I would suggest standing near a traffic light or an intersection. This method would increase the chances for the people to be able to read your sign when they slowed down, contemplate on whether to help you or not and to also be able to stop if they want to.

Have tons of patience in your pocket
It is not always just fun and adventure in hitchhiking, unfortunately. There were times when we were standing so long by the roadside smiling with a sign that we started to wonder if we are crazy and would today be the day that we are not going anywhere. But be patient and keep smiling, as positivity is the key here.

Hitchhiking in Japan - free transport

At least you don’t have to pay! Photo credits: Marko Kudjerski

Put on a smile and have fun
I always say that the journey is more important than the goal, and in the case of hitchhiking, it is the mantra itself. It would be great if we can reach our goal destination on that day but if not, well life goes on and who knows where our journey may have brought us. Somewhere new? A new adventure? For us, we have managed to reach our destination always on the same day itself, albeit some late ones, mainly because we tried not to travel too far a distance. Once we did a long leg of entire day hitchhiking, from Hiroshima to Kumamoto. We started in the morning after breakfast and arrived only after dinner time. A five hours typical journey had taken us almost double the time but hey, it was totally worth it. On a good hitchhiking day, we have ridden with a father and daughter who was out on a bonding day and decide to just help bring us to the nearest highway rest stop (there are not going out of the city!), from here we got picked by a student coming back from visiting his hometown and then finally a family of four that took us to sightseeing on the way and also treated us to late lunch before dropping us right in front of our hostel!

Now you have the best tip on the cheapest or rather free transport in Japan. With this, you can see that it is not impossible to travel Japan on a budget, especially if you can save on the transport side. Of course, if this is not your kind of thing, fret not as there are also other tips on how to travel Japan on a budget. Stay tuned and I will share more other transport tips and much more. Also, if you have more tips and experiences on hitchhiking in Japan as well, please do share!

Related article:
Free Transport in Japan – Hitchhiking



Author: Rachel

Japan, as one of her very first trip far away from home, Rachel found it to be eye-opening and awe-inspiring. She got so fascinated by the distinction of Japan, especially the people and how such country so unique from the rest can exist in this chaotic world, that she went back twice to further her endless discovery of it. With that said, there is still much to explore in Japan! Google+

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