Soma-San, a backpacker in Japan - Part 1. Introduction

Our protagonist’s round trip in Japan lasted two months with some extreme adventures. With a single backpack he travelled 4000 kilometres by hitchike, sleeping in a tent every night. The article sequence which is going to be about his wonderful memories and experiences, starts by the presentation of our adventurer, with a summary youtube video.

Kakehashi: Please, introduce yourself briefly to the readers! What should we know about you?

Soma: I am Csekeő Soma, getting closer to the end of my twenties day by day in an unstoppable way. I grew up in a little town next to Budapest, called Törökbálint, and I live here at the moment as well. I really like the countryside- big city ambivalence of this place. If I want I’m surrounded by silence and peace, but when I desire to have some company, I get to city centre in 15 minutes. This kind of parallel ambivalence can be seen in my connection to Japan as well. The way I like the countryside, and it’s approach of preserving tradititions, I just as well fancy the bustling milieu of any metropolis.

At the moment I am studying at the University of Sports (have been for a while now) to become a P.E. teacher, but I also have been working for years both ocasionally and permanently as a trainer, instructor, and camp leader. At the age 27, this is my eleventh year as an educator. I love my profession very much, as it requires determination, and plenty of love, without those it would not be possible to carry on. I have been a swimming coach in FTC for 3 years, a sport manager and judge in the XII. district for 10 years. I really enjoy both, the community is amazing, I also recieve continous support for my „japanase stuffs” from them.

Why did I choose this way? It was not the original plan. I applied to the Faculty of Law Enforcement of the University of Public Service for criminal detective training, I imagined how cool it would be to play Columbo at home, getting out of an american old timer car. Than I did not have enough points, so I needed a plan B. That was the TF. I do not say that I have regretted it, but if Japan came into my mind earlier, than I would have surely chosen a japanese faculty before graduation. I will talk about this later.

Kakehashi: When and how did you get in touch with Japan, and its culture?

Soma: You get in touch with many many things, unintenionally-intenioally, several times you do not even realize it, because you do not understand it. What I wanted to say is, that even though I loved watching Dragon Ball at the age of 5, Pokemon at the age of 7, at those moments I did not realize that these were Japanese tales, so we can’t say that the first „touch” was the anime culture. Later I consciously started to watch japanese movies, I liked the atmosphere, culture they radiated. Anyone can say anything, but „the Last Samurai” movie is brilliant. It features the crisis of the Japanese ideology, its ambivalence, and their deep culture, which is present every single day. This movie might have been the first bigger trigger point, when I realized, that I am seriously interested in this country’s culture.

In addition I started learning karate in the kindergarden, but I was so small, that it did not last long at all. After that I followed my best friends, as little children usually do, and going to judo trainings. I liked it so much, that although my friends left, I kept going for 6 more years.

I can say it without boastfulness, that I am lucky about sports, because I grew up in an athletic family, and for some reason I had great sensibility for everything. I was motivated as well- wanted to be first in everything, so I was considered talented in judo too. On the other hand as a child I was not easy to handle, because I could not cope with problems and defeat. I was not a naughty kid, but being egocentric, after a bad day, I quit judo. This is one of the bad things in my life, which I would do differently now. Not just because I felt that I had potentional (and still feel bad about not achieveing anything serious in sports), but also because I got so much from my trainer, Gunda Zoltán, and he did not deserve that from me. After that ominous bad training, I simply did not return anymore. I did not say goodbye, did not say thanks, and have not talked with him, sincet hat day. I regret it!

Kakehashi: Which part of the Japanese culture is exceptionally close to you heart?

Soma: It may be surprising (my Dad would never believe me about this) but I like order, cleanliness. This is not a compulsive, autistic feature, but everything in my room has its own place, and I like a clean house, the order. Those who know the daily routine of the Japanese people, also know that we change to slippers in the hall, and we use another one in the toilet, and I could keep talking about their habits all day long. I really like that their rules are set, there is no need to figure out anything, and be afraid, well is it okay if I do this or that, am I causing trouble with this? etc… Unfortunately here at home, and the whole west everybody behaves as they want, because individualism is more important than collectivism. We can’t stand in long queues patiently, we tend to be impatient, however, if anybody else is being impatient with us, then we are the loudests saying, that it is not fair! We demand respect towards us, but not towards ourselves to behave in a normal style. But the thing I was most touched by about Japan is the way they can collaborate, living while respecting the rules, and that they would never cause trouble to others. I am not saying that this is beneficial in every single situation, but as a community, society, I would still rate it 10/10. A small interjection: many people mistake respect with etiquette. There is a Hungarian guy who lives in Japan, usually talks about this topic and doesnt want outsiders view Japan uncorrectly. Just because someone bows in front of you, does not automatically mean that respects you as well. Still he behaves in an educated way, because that is what is normal there. I wish I felt the same way, every time I get on the subway…

Kakehashi: What was the reason for you to decidet to start organizing your journey? What did inspire you, what was your goal with it?

Soma: I mentioned that I am a student of the University of Sports. I didn’t really have a range of interest, any fix hobbies, any serious plan for the future. I was living my casual life, like everyone else. Then at the first day of the first semester I met a guy from our group, who is one of my best friend today. It turned out that he did karate for years too. We talked about everything, Japan, combat sports also. After that in 2014, in the second semester, as a thunder from the the sky, it hit me- no, it’s not that movie…- the recognization, that I adore Japan. I felt I had to go there as a tourist, or even migrate there later, because that is where I want to live. I might as well say that I want to be Tom Cruise in my own Last Samurai movie. Well, after this moment I started to have interest about the Japanese culture consciously, watch animes, japanese movies. That is how I became Hayao Miyazaki, Hisaishi Joe, Mifune Toshiro, Kurosawa Akira and Takeshi Kitano fan. I watched all the informative movies, read every book about this country. I watched hungarian blogs. I went through all the hungarian and english videos in youtube, which had connection with Japan. I started learning the language in a self educational way, and I intented to get to all the Japanese related events, occasions.

And then came another very important step: I bought something like 10 guidebooks, and started to note which places I should visit. In which city, what and where to watch, for how much money? My first travel to Japan I imagined to be as strong as a cultural shock as a first kiss in real love. And a good experience, what will I see and feel there? Would it be okay to move, study, work there? And why did I plan it to travel by hitchiking with a backpack and a tent? There were three reasons: the adventure, low expenses, and I wanted to see the real face of Japan.

Let’s start with the costs: An ordinary, 10 day round trip, not in five star hotels, without full board and spending money is a 3000 dollars or so. I spent two months there for the half of that quantity. Do I need to explain it any more? Of course there were many sacrifices in this misson. I wasn’t sleeping on the most comfortable mattresses, and many times I got soaked in the tent as well…

Real Japan: I have never understood the type of tourism, when people watch things in videos and pictures, then they go there for a lot of money. Taking pictures, videos, come back home, and think how amazing we felt, how impressed we are by that culture. I wanted to see the real face of the country, the every day lives. Seeing how ordinary people spend their daily routines. Get to know the reality, not the glammer nor the gloss. Let’s not forget that I had a long-term plan, wanted to experience how livable the country is. Even get to places, the Natgeo had not described before, embrace the atmosphere, the depth you are surrounded by. Live through, discover the unknown. To become Tom Cruise from the Last Samurai, or the William Adams of the 2010’s.

Adventure: About this topic I have to share two important details with you, my dear readers. I went to Japan to hitchike and sleep in the nature, that I could barely count on one hand how many times I had done it before that. With my friend who I mentioned before, I did experience how it is to sleep in a tent by University organization. Jus for fun, we were listening the owls hooting, and how the twigs, bushes were creaking, while laying in the tent trembling. Later on I had similar experiences in Croatia too. I really became attached to the atmosphere of this type of travels, and that we could camp out anywhere and anytime we wanted. And it did not cost a single florin.
Before Japan I had hitchiked around ten times altogether. Its cheapness was a relevant aspect here as well. Of course there is a need to sacrifice a lot, and adjust. It is never sure that they will pick you up, nor it is that they can take you where you exactly would like to go, and it is not alway a limousine, sometimes its a farm wagon. So we can say that I started my journey in Japan without any references, but I think I have become quite an expert in the topic. I hitchiked at least 4000 kms, and lived in a tent for two months in cities and forests also.

Kakehashi: Why did you choose 2019 summer for your journey, and why was it 60 days long?

Soma: Years passed, and I started to receive more and more critics, little mockings, from friends and family equally, saying that: Soma you are „all talk”, you are always just speaking about it”, „you will never go there”, „who heard about it, with a tent, hitchiking in Japan?!”. I felt they laughed at me because of my big mouth. I knew that I wanted to travel before the 2020 Olympic Games, because I wanted to avoid the big crowd (back then we did not know that this epidemic is about to come).
Days passed frighteningly… One night I was reflecting at home, got furious thinking that this would be my last chance to travel, and everybody is laughing at me, so I went down to the living room, there were some guests of the family there at that time, and I bought the first and cheapest flight ticket for that summer. I closed the laptop and I told my mother that I am not going to be at home from the 6th of July until the 5th of September. „Yes? Are you going to the lake Balaton with friends?” No, I am going to be in Japan…”- I replied. There was a moment of silence and then all those ten people started to laugh. „How much have you drunk Soma?” I told them „I was not joking, I have just bought my flight ticket.”- and then I showed them. And then came all the „wow” and „you are a fool, son” statements.

Originally I wanted to be there from the 1st of August until the 31st, that would have been okay with school and work also. But I had this kind of „I will really show you now that I go to Japan” attitude, so I decided to buy a significantly cheaper flight ticket with a much sooner departure time. Because of that I had to redesign the whole journey. I had two months to do it. How did it go? I will tell you all about it in the next episode…

Until that time, check my teaser summary video!


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