The Stranger in The White Van

Despite having seen a lot of splatter movies growing up, I once accepted a ride from a stranger driving a van.

I wasn’t actually hitchhiking, I was more of a target of opportunity, so to speak.

About a hundred years ago when I was living in Niigata, I got this sudden urge to travel during Golden Week (a period of time when four national holidays arrive at the same time. On a whim, I decided to go to Shikoku. This is roughly the equivalent of deciding to travel to Western Nebraska on a whim.

I arrived in Tokushima early evening and was turned away from several inns and ended up sleeping in a manger. (Sort of.) Actually, the fourth hotel called the fifth and arranged a room at a business hotel which is only one step above a capsule hotel and, quite frankly, not that much bigger than a manger.

The next day, it started raining which meant I couldn’t ride the cable cars and do other things Tokushima is famous for. That said, the food was good and I enjoyed the cultural center. (I think I still have a handkerchief I dyed while I was there.)

From there I went to Takamatsu and then to the Iya Valley where I decided not to pay 500 yen to cross Kazurabashi, a vine bridge 42 feet above rocky, watery death. The journey did not provide enlightenment, just fear, and the sides only came up to my waist, increasing the fear.

I did take some nice pictures, though.

After roaming around for a while. I sat down at an abandoned bus stop across from an abandoned restaurant to wait for the bus, even though I wasn’t actually sure when it would arrive.

That’s when the stranger in the van arrived. The van was full of other people’s clothes. The man offered to take me to the closest station where he assured me the members of his cult would cage me in a wicker man and burn me alive to ensure good harvest. Granted, I might have misunderstood him a bit as the Shikoku dialect doesn’t sound like any Japanese I’ve ever studied.

Eventually, I figured out he worked hauling clothes to clothing stores and that he recommended a certain brand of Shikoku sake. Also, since he earned his living driving, he talked about the fact that the road through the mountain was newly built and saved him a lot of time.

Eventually he deposited me at the station and I went to on to Kochi, which was okay, but nothing special. The van ride was actually the last interesting thing that happened on that trip.

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