Friday, October 9, 2009

Big Truck, Big Fee

Say hello to Kawaii-san. In English, Mr. Cute.

His name might have another meaning, but when I commented on it he laughed and nodded. He's an electrical worker who loves jet-skiing and has two little "kawaii" children, aged 3 and 5.

It was the closest I ever came to riding with a trucker. I had no idea how to translate 'nice rig' so I told him, "Your truck is interesting and cool." Didn't have quite the same ring to it, but he agreed. His big, yellow SK-139 was a real beauty.

I only spent 53km with him but it was a great time. (Yes, I'm a stats nerd; trip-length is just the beginning of the useless-but-interesting data I collected during the trip. I'll blog about it later on.)

He was much more talkative than most other drivers, and by some miracle I understood everything he said to me. He joked a lot and had many questions about my time in Japan.

"What's the best thing about your trip so far?" He asked.

"All the people I've met and the kindness they've shown me."

He laughed at me. "No, be serious."

"I AM serious!" I said.

He smiled, and offered me a can of coffee. "Certainly I am the first to be this kind to you."

I was quite thirsty, and accepted the coffee -- but had to break it to him that my other 14 drivers had made similar offers.

This did not please him. He was now in a kindness-competition with 14 of his countrymen. He looked down at a couple of onigiri (rice balls) between the front seats -- probably his dinner.

"Did they give you food, too? Eat these rice balls. What else can I give you? Here, take my wallet. And the truck, too. It's yours. Everything but my wife and kids. Now who is kindest?!?"

I laughed. He'd proven his point.

The crowned king of benevolence dropped me off at a campground outside a small town. I pocketed his wallet, got out of the truck, thanked him for him for his generosity, and walked up to the campsite office.

Some of the campgrounds in Hokkaido are free of charge. Most others are $3 to $5 a night. This one was $50. That's not a typo. Fifty dollars! Below are samples of the various facial expressions that constituted my reaction to this abominable fee.

The campground office attendant patiently waited for the end of my "collage de visages" and explained that the campground was meant for vehicle campers. They had no options for simple, tent-carryin' folk like me.

But I shed not a single tear, for I am nothing if not resourceful in times of need, and I rebelliously avoided paying the $50/night fee by pitching my tent beside the campsite, in a deserted area next to a beach.

I walked to a nearby hot spring, where I spent some of my considerable campsite savings on the luxuries of a much-needed shave, a long, hot bath, and a dinner of tempura and soba noodles followed by ice cream. Relaxed and hunger sated, I walked slowly back to my tent. I fell asleep to the waves lapping against the nearby shore, and dreamed of big yellow trucks and lower-class rebellion.


  1. He offered you a can of coffee? Coffee comes in cans? That sounds...gross.

  2. They're really common in Japan. Some people I know think they're gross, but I like them. Most are very sweet and milky. You can get them cold or hot.

    Tommy Lee Jones does TV commercials for one of the coffee brands. He plays an alien learning about earth - they're funny in a very very weird, 'I can't believe TLJ would do this' kind of way.

  3. The first time I went to Japan I was completely obsessed with cold-coffee-in-a-can. I had a different one every day. Sooooo goooodd...

    By the second time I went to Japan, my tastes had changed. I no longer like my drinks to be so sweet that it felt like my teeth were all going to individually explode. Also, now I drink my coffee black. Cold coffee in a can is no longer an obsession of mine...

    I do appreciate the super convenience, though. That's one thing the Japanese definitely have figured out.