Currently my cousin from the Netherlands is staying with me in Tokyo. She cycled from The Netherlands to Japan with her boyfriend and then traveled around a bit throughout Australia, Thailand, Cambodia and some other countries until coming back to Japan for another three months. She just finished a hiking trip to Hokkaido with a guy she met online and now she is fixing up her bike so she can do the 88 temple pelgrimige.
On a hot and humid Thursday we set out to go to the beach in Chiba. It was my first time going to the beach and after doing some research online I decided that Kujukiri beach would be a nice place to go.
First we cycled to Tokyo station and there we took the Keiyo line to Soga. We had to change trains a few times, but finally we reached Togane station. When we arrived we soon realized that the beach was still quite a long way off and the heat was sweltering. We decided to go to a conbini first to get a bite to eat and to get provisions for on the beach. From there we walked to the nearest traffic light and once there I branzenly approached cars that had to stop for the red light and asked them whether they wouldn’t mind taking us to the beach. Some people pretended like they did not understand, eventhough I spoke Japanese, but finally we got lucky and a guy opened his window so I could explain our business. By car the trip was only a few minutes but we were glad to be out of the heat and into the lovely airconditioning.
Our driver dropped us off at the parking area, which was almost devoid of cars. There were no people sunbathing or playing on the beach. The only people there were surfing the high strong waves and it felt magical entering the empty beach.
Next to the parking area was a beach hut that rented sunbeds and surfboards. For 500 yen I rented a sun bed and gingerly streched my legs. My experience with sunbeds is that it can go very wrong and I have ended up tangled in a sunbed or two in the past, but fortunately all went well and the rickety sunbed was able to hold my weight without collapsing.
Soon Sjakoera, my cousin went jumping into the waves to see what the water was like. We are used to the sea in The Netherlands which is relatively calm and with a lot of sand banks so there are a lot of shallow pools where you can relax without being bothered by waves too much. Of course when there are so many surfers around, you can be sure the see isn’t as calm and we soon found out that the waves and undercurrent are actually quite strong at Kujikuri beach. We didn’t dare go in quite as far as the surfers did. While swimming we were often swept away by big waves that carried us far from where our towels were so we soon gave up and decided to attack the snacks we brought with us from the conbini (convenience store).
Around 4 PM the owner of the beachhut asked me to return the sunbed in about half an hour so we decided it was best to pack up and leave. As we walked to the parking area, a car came up the road and I was able to flag down an old lady. She did not mind taking us to the train station, but Sjakoera suggested we try and hitchhike home. I had never hitchhiked in my life, except for the two short rides to and from the beach we took earlier that day and the prospect quite appealed to me. It might be exciting to see what kind of people we would meet and what adventures we would experience.
We went back to the conbini to buy some felt tipped pens and a note pad and I wrote Tokyo in large kanji. We walked towards a busy road and waited by a traffic light to see whether someone would pick us up.
I soon realized that Tokyo was too ambitious a goal as I suspected that most people that were driving in this small village were locals and would probably not be going all the way to Tokyo. Aparently hitchhiking in Japan is a novel idea and not many people are used to people standing by the side of the road, trying to get a ride. Most people looked curious at us, smiled at us or waved, but no one picked us up. I decided to change tactics and change Tokyo to Chiba as that was much closer than Tokyo. Not long after we finally were successful. An older gentleman with a car full of stuff stopped by the side of the road. He first had to rearrange his car to make room for us, but finally we were able to get in and get going. The sun was already slowly starting to set so I was getting worried we might not be able to go back all the way to Tokyo after it had become completely dark so I was glad we were finally on our way.
Our driver was able to speak a bit of English so we spoke a mixture of Japanese and English. He told us he used to be a professional tennis player, but now he worked as a tennis coach and he had travelled the world when he was younger. He had been to Alaska, Argentina and Peru to name but a few. He even went to a mountain near Machu picha that can only be reached by mountain climbers so he was quite a fit guy. He had even had a girlfriend when he was in Argentina and he picked up some Spanish when he was there. This is also where he fell in love with flamenco and folklore music and dance and he learned some of the local songs. He told us that there is one bar where he performs every weekend and he offered to take us there. He looked at us with pleading eyes and told us that the people there would relish the opportunity to be able to speak in English. His puppy dog eyes really tore at my heart strings and, even though we really wanted to get home as quickly as possible, we assented and went with him to his local bar.
It was a nice place along a big road near Soga. Outside was a nice lounge area where can enjoy the sun on a lovely warm summer day. We also saw two ‘bamboo trees’ made from dried up bamboo branches filled with coloured strips of paper. We didn’t pay that much attention to it at the time and followed our driver inside. The interior of the bar was quite funky too with lots of large pantings that were actually quite good. We were the only ones there and we picked out a spot at the bar.
It turned out that the people that worked behind the bar did not speak any English at all so our driver had exagerated their desire for speaking English to us. Still they were very interested in us and told us that they had never met anyone from The Netherlands. Our driver dediced to give us an impromtu serenade and after disappearing for a bit and rummaging around in an adjecent room, he reappeared holding a banjo or ukelele (I never can tell the difference) and played a couple of song for us. One of them an old Elvis classic. He really was quite good and he even showed us some youtube video’s from his performances.
I noticed that our drivers glass hardly emptied at all and by that time it was already quite dark. I was getting worried that we might not get a ride home since it would be more difficult for cars to read out sign now that had gotten dark. I had downed my drink in a few large swallows and quickly eaten the proffered tofu we received as a snack and then decided to forgo politeness and asked our driver to drop us off somewhere so we could continue our way to Tokyo. Before we left we were asked to write down a wish to put up in the wish tree. Admireringly the bartender told us that so far the only had Japanese wishes in his tree and he was quite happy to add our wishes to the bunch. Of course to make them more ‘exotic’ we had written them down in Dutch and after we’d put them in the tree (the bartender instructed us that since we were tall, we should put them up as high as we could reach) he looked like a cat that swallowed a canary. Our driver also appeared quite proud to having delivered two Dutch ladies to this local bar where apparently foreigners generally don’t come, so we were glad that we were not the only onese having a good time.
Our driver dropped us off in Soga at a Mc Donalds. We took the sign from our bag and I was preparing myself for a long wait. Fortunately the spot we choose turned out to be perfect for hitchhiking. After just a few minutes a girl approached us and asked us where we wanted to go. We first said ‘Chiba’, and then explained that we really wanted to go to Tokyo. She told us she could take us as far as Chiba, but just then another car stopped and the driver told us he wouldn’t mind taking us all the way to Tokyo, so we didn’t hesitate a second and jumped into his van.
The van was quite cute. Even though the driver floored the van, it didn’t go any faster than 100 km. He appologized that the van couldn’t go very fast and it would take a long time, but of course we didn’t mind and were perfectly happy to have run into someone who wouldn’t mind taking us to Tokyo. This driver unfortunately did not speak any English, so I talked to him in Japanese and translated it back to Dutch whenever our driver told me something I thought my cousin mind find interesting.
Before long we had already reached the outskirts of Tokyo and around 9:30 PM we were finally at Tokyo station. Japan being so safe, I did not have to worry about our bikes that had been outside Tokyo station unprotected and with only flimsy locks the entire day. They were exactly as we left them! I have some fake flowers draped around the basked that is attached to my stearing wheel and even noticed that someone had dropped one of the flowers in my basket as it apparently dropped off while it was parked out there. I really love living in Japan. The people are so friendly and kind to me. Even though they are not used to picking up strangers along the road, it really wasn’t hard to hitchhike all the way from the beach to Tokyo.