Hitch Hike Your Way Through This Summer Break In Japan!

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

By: Peter Jaya Satyo

Published date: September 5th, 2019

Still wondering where to go this summer break in Japan? Tired of the same old vacation routine and looking for a new kind of travel experience but caught up on a budget limit? Or Maybe right now you are stuck with the same old routine consisting of maximum baito (バイト) hours and desperate to get out of the basic summer boredom? Take your time to read this travel article about Fadheel Ibadurahman. The man who hitch hiked his way from Kyushu to Kanto, and all the way back again. Twice.

Meet Fadheel Ibadurahman. A 4th year – soon to be graduating – student of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University from Indonesia, who is currently based in Tokyo. He is a very close friend of mine since the start of college and he’s going to be working as a teacher this upcoming October in a famous international school in Tokyo. “Traveling has always been a passion. During my days as a 留学生 (International student), I’ve been hosting travellers at my place, becoming a guest at local people’s houses, and of course, wandering across Japan by using my thumb and a sign.” Says the free spirited man himself during a one on one interview.

When did you start hitchhiking?

“I have always wanted to hitchhike since I heard many amazing stories from fellow travelers I hosted, but I didn’t have the nerve to do this. Until in 2016, I was traveling to Jeju island in South Korea, and accidentally missed and got off at the wrong bus stop. I could have waited for another bus from the other direction of the road, but it was almost dark and I was in the middle of grasslands with only 2-3 cars passed every 5 minutes. So I thought I should try to hitchhike, and it went well.”

He might even say it was fate that he got lost on the wrong bus stop that day because getting lost in the middle of nowhere helped him overcame his fears of hopping on a stranger’s vehicle to get to his destination. When he went back to Japan after the Korea trip, he started to plan itineraries on travelling locally. He thought that 4 years of university is a really short time when you consider the life you are going to have ahead. So he decided to visit all the unique places he can visit in Japan while he still has the free time but there was one problem that made a significant “bump on the road”. Travelling in Japan is VERY expensive. The transportation and accommodation fees itself could take up a hefty amount from his budget. Not to mention the leisure activities and consumption on the trip. These factors are the main reasons why he started to hitchhike in Japan.

“What is the point of traveling when you can’t fully enjoy it? Why should I spend so much on mediocre expenses if I can travel for free and use the money for more fun memorable things

From Kyushu to Kanto

After a few more hitch hiking trips around Kyushu with drives less than 2 hours, he started to plan out longer trips around Japan. With his bravery and experience increasing as his frequency of hitch hiking gets more often and distances goes farther, he decided to do the most daring trip ever. On the spring of 2017,Fadheel hitchhiked from Beppu to Saitama while stopping on major cities that he passes for one whole month.

“ From Beppu – Kitakyushu – Shimonoseki – Hiroshima – Osaka – Kobe – Kyoto – Fukui – Nagoya – Tokyo – Saitama while stopping at small cities as well as unfamous landmarks and hitch hiked back to Beppu. And the next following month I hitch hiked from Beppu -Tokyo with the fastest record of 18 hours with just 6 lifts. ”

Outrageous? Yes. That was the first thought that popped up in my mind as well when he told me his route. But it got crazier when he told me that his itinerary for this long trip DOES NOT include any accommodation lists. He used his couch surfing network to find free stays from fellow travellers he hosted in the past. But most of the times he just stayed at a local gas stop or 24 hour restaurants. The reason why is because he wanted to eat the best foods, go to the most beautiful places, visit museums and etc. Bottom line is, according to him accommodation is not necessary for leisure. It’s a far off the extreme but apparently there is a great outcome from this rather outrageous mindset. From his journey, he learned many valuable lessons and self improving realizations.

“Definitely patience, standing for one full hour remaining the same pose and smile without knowing when will I get lift can be frustrating, but after sometime, I got used to it. Because there are a lot of “waits” in life! Wait for an appointment, wait for paycheck, wait for a queue, wait for a result, etc. And hitchhike definitely taught me a lot about patience. Secondly, social skill. Imagine getting 12 lifts in a day, you may get tired of talking about yourself over and over again. But the conversation should not always about you! I got to asked the same questions every time i got lifted and the answers were different and it always leads to new topics each time i got lifted. And most importantly, you get to know yourself even better. Sometimes we didn’t realize if we have any fear, until we get confronted by it, and its always nice when I figured out some new facts about myself.”

Tips on HitchHiking in Japan

1. Brush up on your Japanese!

This is probably the most important thing to prepare before you go on a hitch hiking trip. Communicating in English is nearly impossible when you go to the country side of Japan. The reason why Fadheel was not sure of hitch hiking was because of his lack of communication skills. Eventually he took more Japanese classes in school to improve his speaking and reading to decrease his risks of getting lost. But like he said, the best part is actually talking to new people and listening to their stories. So it’s kind of hard and dangerous if you don’t have substantial Japanese skills.

2. Always Know Where You’re Going

Be aware of your next destination and the route to go there. Not everyone is going to the same direction you’re going and that means you have to pull off and hitch a new ride a few times to get to your destination.

“As usual, when I hitchhike, i waited at the exit gate of a service area where every driver can see me with my sign. I got lifted by a couple, and after an hour ride, turns out we’re going to different direction, mine was to turn left and theirs were to turn right. It was in the middle of a highway, they stopped the car and told me to get off, and I did! I walked on the highway for like 5 minutes with bunch of cars went over 80km/hour just few meters from where i was walking. Until i found a shortcut through a forest that connects the road to an exit gate, i had to go very fast cause it was getting dark and I could barely saw where I stepped. At the other side of the forest, I heard some sirens. I thought it was only one police car, but guess what, there were 9 police cars and 1 highway patrol car. I was asked a lot of questions, but at the end, they drove me to the stations and bought me a train ticket. That was very scary, but sweet in the end.”

3. Update Someone Your Status. All THE TIME

You never know what will happen with you when you're with a stranger. As fun as it may seems, there are still possibilites to get in to a tightspot. That is why it is very important to tell somebody where you are and where you’re going and HAVE CASH WITH YOU!

“ On my trips I have always updated a friend who lives on my designated city that I am coming there. But I would recommend having a partner on the trip instead. I never really went on a long trip alone, I always had a partner with me just to be safe.”

Word of Advice:

“ Being in the early 20’s is the best time to be alive. Especially when you’re living abroad like I am right now. It is probably the only moment when you have the freedom and time available to go wherever you want and explore. Hitch hiking allowed me to do so with the minimum resources I have, but always be prepared and know your limits. Don’t go unprepared because you’ll never know what’s going to happen. Trips are meant to be fun and exciting so always be prepared!”

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