I never start off well.
Shaky & ineffectual, I felt like a thumbless leper vacillating there by the Tenjin expressway entrance with my kindergarten-level kanji scrawled across the cardboard I’d heisted some minutes before reading, “Karatsu”. There should have been a question mark. I was unsure. Naked. Just me and my cardboard cock fishing in the wind for a ride to this goddamn gorgeous Black Pine Forest buffeting the ocean and the mountains in Saga Prefecture some 45 minutes Southwest. No map. No compass. Just hope and stares. Stares from the mass of cars speedily passing me, some gaping, some laughing, others motioning wildly, pointing. “No No Wrong…”
“Huh?” I check my fly. My cardboard. Looking a ways off I notice the big blue onramp sign reads “KitaKyushu” meaning wrong way. Making my way to a crosswalk and doubling back to a “safe” place for retrieval I unveil my barely legible script to a new generation of drivers heading off to their various destinations and Whabam! 5 minutes and I get a ride with a guitarist from Fukuoka who explains to me in superb English that the IC doesn’t actually go to Karatsu. News to me. But luckily he’s heading there to deliver his boss’ son a package. In my poorly affected Moscow accent I tell him I’m a Russian journalist doing a story on the Japanese side of the Kuril Island saga. I ask him if he knew that Russia and Japan are still at “war”, meaning that Russia never “undeclared” war on Japan after tensions over the islands (north of Hokkaido) arose directly after WWII. As he asks what a Russian passport looks like, I ask him what’s in the package and we simultaneously shut our respective yaps. He drops me at Karatsu station an hour later where I procure a map and head off on foot towards the ocean and the setting sun, wondering vaguely where the hell to sleep.
Sleep. Funny notion. I laid my bag down in the sand of the beach as the sun faded, staring out at the blackening ocean and the lights of far-off ships and stars beginning to wink at me in the inconsolable vastness of…Wait a damn minute here! Alright, yeah so I was lonely, but hey, that don’t make any difference when you got enough sake, right. Well, sake & chocolate-covered almonds and a few smokes and all the lovely sand fleas keeping me company. Long story short: woke up just before 2 AM (soaked from the rain and the driving wind) by the earth quaking in her faults. Not an overly big tremor but enough for the word “tsunami” to flash beore my mind. Unable to summon forth the spirit of Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks in “Castaway” I scuttled off to the nearest hotel stairwell and crouched in the cement corner until just after sunrise, passing the time by trying to recite all of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Something about an Albatross, right?
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I
This echoing in my head as I exited the Saga couple’s silver coupe in Yobuko, a port town famed for its squid, nowhere near anywhere convenient to catch a ride to Arita, the ceramics capitol of Japan. Speaking of convenience, there were none. No 7/11s, Lawsons, Family Marts. Just a thousand thousand slimy squids not living on, as I was to do on my way back to Karatsu, to catch the proper road to Arita, Imari, Sasebo and finally, Nagasaki. Finally getting my hitching balls though. Beginning to see why the “No sunglasses” clause is a big one, as I was told repeatedly I resembled Yakuza whenever I donned my dark American truckstop $5.99 specials once safely inside my next ride. Also learned that the “brooding, unshaven” stoicism so normally affected when seeing fun-filled vanagons watching the latest anime on their in-seat DVD screens pass by me, doens’t yield the desired results. Hence the “telling jokes to myself while tap-dancing a jig” stance I adopted throughout the day, which got me through Arita, Sasebo and to Nagasaki’s Peace Park by 4 in the beautiful afternoon. Admittedly, I must’ve cut a rather schizophrenic figure gesticulating and laughing at my grandpa’s dirty “Pope, a Rabbi & the Easter Bunny walk into a bar” jokes there on the narrow roadside, though instead of discouraging tickets to ride I managed to get into “the zone” and make efficient time to all my destinations, due mainly to the Japanese fascination with the hairy-ass honkey dancing like a crazy monkey…”Stop Honey! Pull over! Let’s help out grassroots internationalization!” Thusly did I make it to the the top of Inasayama and possibly the best view in all of Kyu-shu: Nighttime in Nagasaki.[SinglePic not found]