Episode 09H: Hitchhiking the Kan-Etsu
I, too, am now convinced that if you have even a bit of time to spare, hitchhiking
is the way to get around Japan.  However, in his otherwise excellent book
The Hitchhiker's Guide to Japan, Will Ferguson says that the hitchhiker's
"#1 commandment" is to not hitchhike from Tokyo, because it's "simply not
worth the time and effort".  Well, that's easy to say if you're a tourist,
but what about us long-term residents who live here?  

Fortunately, there's a group of people who also disagree with Mr. Ferguson:
the somewhat unfortunately named ASS-HOLE Diggers (ASS = Auto-Stoppers Society),
who run an excellent webpage at http://www.roppongi.com/ass/e_index.html.
The highway access database alone is worth its weight in gold.  However, I
wanted to go to northwest on the Kan-Etsu Expressway, the one road for which
no decent Tokyo access point was listed.  So what to do?  Here's the answer.

The first service area on the Kan-Etsu is at Miyoshi, which is rather
inconviniently located.  To get there, take the Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro
to either Fujimino or Tsuruse station.  Fujimino is the closer of the two,
some 3-4 km away, and if you're armed with a decent map and lots of energy
you may want to walk it.  On the other hand, if you've got the money,
take a taxi for about 1200 yen.  The other option is taking the Raifu Basu
#4 from Tsuruse to the Sentoraru Byoin stop; unfortunately, this
line runs only once an hour and doesn't run at all during lunchtime.
The bus will deposit you on the wrong side of the expressway, cross the
nearby bridge to get to the side heading out from Tokyo.  There should
also be a Raifu Basu from Fujimino-eki to Sentoraru Byooin, but I couldn't
find it and nobody else seemed to know about it either.

So much for what you should do, here's what I did do.  I got to Fujimino
alright and located a bus stop, but was perplexed when I couldn't find
Sentoraru Byoin in the route map.  The bus came and I asked the driver:
he didn't know about the hospital, but he did know the Miyoshi PA, and
he said the bus would go pretty close to it and he'd tell me where to
get off.  So off we go, and go, and go, and go...  until the driver
disclosed that oops, he isn't going there at all, but at the next
train station up the line there's a Raifu Basu that will.  So he took
me back to the station and apologized, and I took the next train
to Tsuruse.  I got there, found the right bus stop, and then proceeded
to scratch my head for half an hour trying to work out the incomprehensible
timetable.  Buses rolled up, I asked questions and waited an hour, until I
finally realized that a) the only bus going in the right direction is #4
and b) the next #4 bus would start at 13:30 and c) it was 12:00.  Being
already way late -- I was aiming to be at Miyoshi by 11 -- I took a taxi
and forked out 1800 yen for a ride straight to the service area.  In all,
getting from home to Miyoshi took no less than a whopping 4.5 hours, more
than it would take me to get from Miyoshi to Niigata...

Just the same, if you know where you're going, hitchhiking is a great way
to get around.  I've already got plans for a Kyoto-Osaka-Shikoku loop
and a Hokkaido excursion, it just remains to be seen whether I can take
the time off.  Stay tuned for more hitchhiking updates...


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