These past 5 days are stretched across my mind like a speedo straining to cover a bulging German tourist. Yes, I'm back safe from hitchhiking, and it was a great experience. However, three full days of rushing around getting picked up by kind strangers were enough for us. I will write more on this later.
Two days ago, we got back to Kumamoto, partied in the city (it was kind of cool because all of the gaijin that we saw were not our familiar locals. being incognito at home is interesting). The next day, we got back late to Aso and headed out to a music festival on the mountain. It was held at a huge clearing in the forest, and it was raining off and on. People had come from all over Japan and had set up a commune of tents, yurts, tee-pees, and other forms of mobile habitation. It was amazing seeing so many gaijin in Aso, along with Japanese hippies and little kids running around amid this strange environment full of the sounds of djembes, dijaradoos, jews harps, reggae music, and a shakuhachi (I only knew what it was thanks to Zachary Braverman's posts on the subject, and I had a feeling the old dude was good because his beautiful songs sounded like a floating/effortless/improvisational jam session).
I had a great time talking with the people at this festival. Everyone was friendly and it was easy to communicate with them in Japanese or English. The bands were pretty good too, and most of the people at the concert played at least one instrument well. This is the group of people that Taro would be partying with, if he were not married right now.
Last night was the second night that we camped over on the mountain. It had been raining the past couple of days (one of the reasons for truncating the hitchhiking trip), but last night a typhoon rolled over us. I was in my tent thinking about how great my tent was, how it had always been an extremely reliable piece of equipment, and that it only cost 2000 yen. Until last night, it performed flawlessly. However, the winds picked up, gusting across the camp ground, laying waste to our shanty town. The hippies got excited and started to pound on their drums, climaxing when the torrents poured down at their most furious. It blew my tent so hard that the support rods were slapping me in the face and feet. At times, the tent wrapped around me and I felt like I was returning to the womb. I compensated by placing my bag next to the rod that was punching me, and was able to fall asleep in the middle of a raging storm. I remember thinking that the sheets of rain that the wind was driving against my tent's rain cover was eerily similar to the turbulance portrayed in the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"- you know- the one with the gremlin tearing apart the airplane wing and William Shatner! I sure do miss the old school episodes of The Twilight Zone). And then I woke up abruptly when the wind finally tore the cover off of my tent, exposing the windscreen (remember, water and wind can pass through a windscreen, but not a windshield) to the blowing downpour. The experience was similar to gunning through the hypothermic chop in a whaler when the hull smashes into a huge wave which is then blown directly into your face. SMACK! "Fuck this! I live close to here, and I want to sleep in a warm futon tonight!" was my immediate resolve. I woke up Jamie (who was still sleeping somehow), and we made a hasty retreat with some other friends back to his place, coming in from the cold. Many others decided to leave the grounds as well, and it was crazy witnessing the devistation amid the campsite. It seemed as if the fog of war had descended upon our hippie commune, and God was punishing the wicked hippies and gaijin. Most tents were clearly not made to cope with such adverse conditions and had collapsed. Only the yurt and teepees stood proudly, taking everything that the storm was throwing at them.
When we were driving back, I could not help but wonder how the other hitchhikers were faring. We were close to home, and so we just headed back to shelter when conditions got insane. Any hitchhikers caught in the middle of nowhere that might have been forced to camp will no doubt be feeling pretty wiped and soaked right about now. Traveling funk is inevitable, tolerable, and not necessarily a bad feeling, but soaked traveling funk does not sound like fun. Anyone picking up a soaked hitchhiker is indeed a kind soul, because that car packed with soggy gear and soggy gaijin is bound to smell like a wet sheep dog.
1. Uchinomaki to Mashiki (thanks to the fireman who spoke super-thick Higo-ben
2. Mashiki to Fukuoka (thanks to the computer salesman and his two sons from Fukuoka, on their way back from a soccer game)
3. Tenjin to Karatsu (Walked 20 minutes towards Saga and got picked up by soapland enthusiast in fixed up black Odessey)
Crashed at Luke's house and met Joe. The "Joyfull incident".
Started off from 3:00 at onsen near Karatsu.
4. Karatsu to Sasebo (thanks to the old painter)
5. Sasebo to Takeo (thanks to the two college dudes. Jun, maybe we'll make it out to Nagasaki or Fukuoka sometime!)
6. Takeo to Ureshima (thanks to the electrician who fixes security systems. thanks for offering to let us crash in your van for the night)
Set up tent near the expressway in Ureshima
7. Ureshima to Omura (thanks to my Japanese dad, Mr. Tanaka, who lives in Karatsu. I dug your old integra- reminded me of my old legend.)
8. Omura to Nagasaki City (thanks to the bus driver driving the bus to pick up rent-a-car customers. Props for dropping us off right in front of the atomic bomb museum)
9. Nagasaki City to Ariake (we walked out of the city towards Unzen for half an hour in the rain, past the expressway entrance. a salesman, one Mr. Hamasaki, who was closing up his used car lot took pity on us, and told us he would take us to somewhere where we would get picked up, but then decided to drive an hour out of his way to get us to the ferry in Ariake. we had a very nice chat, and he was very embarrased to accept a 5 dollar bill as a memento of our ride together. Mr. Hamasaki called up the ferry, and got us to the last one bound for Kumamoto. While en route to Taida, a port 45 minutes North of the city, he called the ferry to make sure that we were all right! Thanks for helping us out with so much- you were by far the most awesome person that we met on the trip.)
Taida to Kumamoto city- train ride. There was no traffic heading towards the city.