Kilometres hitched: 506, on the Tomei and Meishin expressways
Number of hours: ten (by comparison, it takes 155 to 175 minutes by shinkansen; nine to ten hours by local train)
Number of cars: six
My first ride was with an American named Yuki. I’d just arrived at a service area (SA) near Fujigaoka and gave him a friendly ‘konnichiwa’, when his New York-accented reply of ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’ surprised me almost as much as his offer of a lift. Could it really be this easy?
It was. After just five minutes at the next SA, Hiratsuka, a heavy-set man in a leather jacket hopped off his motor bike and beckoned me over. ‘Come with me,’ he said as he strode up to the nearest man and asked him to give me a lift. I presumed they must know each other, but when he approached another I realised he was conscripting complete strangers to my cause. The second guy said he’d give me a lift. ‘We’re going to Atami,’ his daughter told me once we were on the highway, ‘Gotemba’s kind of out of the way, but my dad wanted to help so we’ll take you there.’