How to Hitchhike in Japan

While in Japan on our working holiday Emma and I have been travelling around on the cheap. This means couch surfing, calling in favours from friends (thanks Ant!) and one of the biggest savings made by hitchhiking. Trains and buses in Japan are quite expensive and if you are not able to get a rail pass ( JR Pass) you can be facing hefty travel costs if you want to properly explore. Another big bonus about hitchhiking is you get to meet some really interesting characters and make some great friends. So if you want to travel for free and explore Japan on a tight budget then we put this this video together to give you guys some tips to get you started on your adventure!

Useful Kanji:

  • North: 北 “Kita”
  • South: 南 “Minami”
  • East: 東 “Higashi”
  • West: 西 “Nishi”
  • Can speak Japanese: 日本語できます “Nihongo dekimasu”

Origami lotus tutorial.

Road tips:

  • Straight road with distant view of traffic.
  • Clear pull in areas ideally before and after where you are standing.
  • Near service stations is a plus.
  • If you can get on to a highway “SA” service area or large “PA” parking area you will have a good chance of getting a ride fast by standing outside the shop.
  • Do not hitchhike from a major city, hop on a cheap train to get out. People in cities are too busy and too wary to pick you up and pull in areas are severely restricted. There is also too much local traffic (not leaving the city) and too many people on the streets for you to stand out.
  • Check out http://wikitravel.org/en/Hitchhiking_in_Japan for more.

TOP TIP: An internet enabled phone will be a huge help when navigating. Punch in your destination to help your driver and track your location as you travel. Also great to check your drivers destination if they are not going exactly where you want. If you have a 4G phone, check out B Mobile’s sim from Amazon.co.jp to avoid contracts and struggling in Japanese phone stores!

If you plan on travelling with some nice camera gear, check out my tips on what to pack.

Drop a message on twitter or youtube if you have any questions. Good luck and safe hitching! 😀

Posted on September 30, 2013 in blogPosts

About the Author

Dean Wright is a 3D artist and film maker. He writes about the VFX industry, Motorsport and working life in Japan following his time there in 2013-2014. Having worked internationally at major studios, he now lives in London freelancing for a wide range of clients.

Responses (3)

  1. Kalo
    February 28, 2015 at 4:09 pm · Reply

    1. What type of bag did you use to carry everything?

    2. What type of clothes should I pack if I hitchhike around May-June? (I’m a guy)

    3. Did you camp at certain points or did you use some kind of motel/hotel?
    3b. If you did camp, what type of tent do you recommend?

    4. Did you know how to speak Japanese prior to your trip or did you learn while travelling?

    5. What tools do you recommend if I’m going to learn Japanese?

    6. What type of cellphone plan do you recommend? (should I bring my phone from back home? – I didnt really understand what the B Mobile’s sim is – also I’m planning on staying in Japan for about 1 month)

    7. Were you using some type to extra battery charger for your phone if it died?

    8. Whats the best way to find motels/hotels if you get dropped off and you don’t know where you are?

    9. Where did you go for food while on the road? / What types of food were you eating?

    10. Do you recommend bringing boots? (I’m thinking of packing light so I’m not sure if I should bring an extra pair of shoes)

    11. I’m trying to find a travel friend who can speak Japanese to make things easier. I’ve tried posting classified ads but I’m not having any luck. Do you have any recommendations on how to go about this?

    • Dean Wright
      March 1, 2015 at 2:46 pm · Reply

      1. What type of bag did you use to carry everything?
      http://getwrightonit.com/travelling-backpacking-camera-gear-insurance/

      2. What type of clothes should I pack if I hitchhike around May-June? (I’m a guy)
      Shorts and Tshirt! Pack light, don’t overload your bag.

      3. Did you camp at certain points or did you use some kind of motel/hotel?
      3b. If you did camp, what type of tent do you recommend?
      Always at cheap hotels/ couch surfing. Travelling in pairs means you can split the rooom cost

      4. Did you know how to speak Japanese prior to your trip or did you learn while travelling?
      Learnt while travelling, but we had over a year in total to improve.

      5. What tools do you recommend if I’m going to learn Japanese?
      Start with the Michele Thomas Method Japanese course, foundation and advanced is my best tip and get use “anki” to learn vocab.

      6. What type of cellphone plan do you recommend? (should I bring my phone from back home? – I didnt really understand what the B Mobile’s sim is – also I’m planning on staying in Japan for about 1 month)
      Use your own phone for emergencies and wifi use if you are only there for 1 month.

      7. Were you using some type to extra battery charger for your phone if it died?
      Yeah I have a portable charger, amy will do.

      8. Whats the best way to find motels/hotels if you get dropped off and you don’t know where you are?
      Tourist information offices, go to the train station and ask, they usually speak English unless you are in a tiny town. If you are on your own, find wifi and use http://www.jalan.net/ with google translate to find the best deals.

      9. Where did you go for food while on the road? / What types of food were you eating?
      Konbini (convenience stores) are literally everywhere so you can always get light meals. Evenings were at bars and restaurants to meet new people and get chatting. Japanese food is amazing, try everything once!

      10. Do you recommend bringing boots? (I’m thinking of packing light so I’m not sure if I should bring an extra pair of shoes)
      Wear the most comfortable shoes you can and if you plan on walking a lot make them a decent pair of boots. I took some low top timberland boots with me and they were fantastic. Avoid a second pair for space/ weight reasons.

      11. I’m trying to find a travel friend who can speak Japanese to make things easier. I’ve tried posting classified ads but I’m not having any luck. Do you have any recommendations on how to go about this?
      Try craigslist in japan or r/japan on reddit and see if anyone wants to join as a travel budddy.

      Relax. Dont worry so much, things will fall into place and Japanese people will help you even if they dont speak a word of English. Good luck, you will have a great time! 😀

      • Kalo
        March 9, 2015 at 8:10 pm · Reply

        Thanks a bunch, Dean!
        I found a travel buddy on reddit!

        We are planning on travelling all over Japan.
        Maybe we would meet up, if you wanna hang out with us.
        Let me know.

        – Kalyan

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