Way Off Topic – a Long Way from Here

Having grown up in Japan and having hitchhiked, biked, and ridden trains all over the country as a boy, literally, at eleven years old I took to the roads hitchhiking for days at a time, traveling over a thousand miles, giving my parents much to worry about, I’ve always had an interest in the trains and roads of Japan. At fourteen I went on an expedition from the far south where we lived to the northern tip of Japan, traveling alone for three weeks, incommunicado, riding trains, hitchhiking, sleeping in telephone booths, having the time of my life. I think fourteen year old boys need to do that. Explore the world on their own. My parents had no idea where I was. This was in the day before mobile phones and even long distance telephoning wasn’t easy. And when you are having fun, what fourteen year old boy is going to call home?

Deciding what trains and roads to try out on future trips is easier now. Train buffs and highway aficionados film their journeys and post them on YouTube. You can search any train line or highway and find videos of them to help decide which new route to take. Which led me to discovering some eye-opening facts about the Tokai-Hokuriki Motorway 東海北陸自動車道. It runs south to north from the Pacific side of Japan to the Sea of Japan side, connecting Nagoya and Toyama. It is 115 miles (185 kilometers) long and has 55 tunnels. 44 miles (70 kilometers) of the highway are tunnels, with the longest one 6.6 miles long. Eleven of the tunnels are more than a mile long.

I patched together a map of the highway. It is the purple line going from the top to the bottom of the image below. Where the purple highway is white indicates a tunnel. There are long stretches where the highway pops out of a tunnel only to pop into one a short time later.


I don’t think a road like this would ever be built in the US. The toll to drive the distance of this highway is a little over $40. If you plan on driving in Japan, take into mind that the average toll on motorways is about 25¢ per mile, which comes to $25 for every hundred miles.

Below is a recent two hour video posted on YouTube which starts at the northern end of the highway and goes all the way to the southern end.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SeI2oYsOGU&w=560&h=315]

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