I woke up early on the morning I was to leave Tokyo. The sun was out but there was a strong wind and it appeared to be coming from the north. With radiation fears at the top of my mind, I put myself into survival mode. I swiftly packed my bag, and by 9am I was ready to leave. It was only till I was about to embark did I remember the huge amount of meat I had stored in my freezer.
This proved a bit of a dilemma. Should I try and cook it and take it with me? or just throw it out? To help me make my decision was my Japanese grandmother. I could hear her voice shrieking, “Mo to nai ne, honmoni.” Meaning, “what a waste.” So, I decided I better try and cook it. It took me about 3 hours but I managed to cook it all; 24 eggs, 5 pounds of pork, 3 pounds of bacon, and 12 cheese burgers. I wish I were exaggerating. The food bag that I assembled weighed more than my backpack.
With my backpack and a garbage bag filled with food in tow, I headed out the door. Although the night before it had been announced that Tokyo would be on rolling blackouts, potentially affecting train service, I decided to see if I could get a ticket for the bullet train. I made my way into the city. It was eerily quiet. It wasn’t empty but there definitely wasn’t the typical sea of black suites characteristic of a Monday morning. When I entered the ticket office, I was surprised and relieved to find only a few people on what was normally a mile long line. Despite the decreased demand, ticket prices were just as expensive as usual. I paid 120,000 yen or about 145$ for the trip to Hataka, on the southern island of Kyushu.
I entered the train, sat back and relaxed. I was gratfull and relieved to be leaving the radiation and earthquakes. Exhausted from sleep deprivation, I settled into my chair and unknowingly drifted into a deep sleep.
And then it hit! The train began to shake and the fear that I had come to know so well returned. It was as though a spear of anxiety had pierced my chest, sending adrenaline rippling throughout my body at lightening speeds. I believed the train would derail. That we would be thrown off the tracks and explode in a 150 mph fire ball. Just as I was about to scream aloud, I stopped myself. I regained full consciousness and I realized that it had just been a dream and that the shaking was only due to a passing train. Whew, I thought to myself.
Moments later, just as my anxiety began to subside, the train car echoed with a cacophony of cell phone alerts. Ever since the first quake a week ago, the Japanese government had been issuing text messages to alert us in the event of another earthquake . The problem with this alert was that it only gave us about a 5 second warning. Just enough time to do absolutely nothing. Everyone in the train held their breathes in anticipation. Thankfully, since we were moving at speeds of over 150 mph, the quake was imperceptible.
It was cold and rainy when we arrived in Hataka city. I had initially planned to sleep on the street but as a result of the weather, I decided it would be best to find a hotel for the night. The cheapest one I could find that was walking distance from the station cost me 5,000 yen or 60$. While I might have been able to find something cheaper, I couldn’t be bothered.
The next morning, I took a 3$ buss to the ferry port. There, I made friends with a Korean who was returning home. Together, we bought a ticket for the “Beatle,” a high speed ferry.
Though I had initially planned to take the low speed ferry over night for 90$, after hearing reports that a Volcano, only a few miles south had resumed it’s eruption, I opted for the faster ferry. Although my ferry cost 110$ after a student discount, it only took 3 hours. I didn’t want to take any chances. I just wanted to get out of there, the sooner the better.
Not only was it faster but much less rocky than a conventional boat. The hydrofoils effortlessly cut through waves as high as 10 feet. It was as though we were gliding atop a cloud towards a wonderfull land free of geological instability. As the open ocean calmed me, I became lost in my thoughts. I imagined the failed Mongol invasions of Japan. Followed by the invasions of Korea led by the megalomaniac Shogun, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. I then thought of my grandfather and great uncle,who once operated a sea food shipping company between Pusan and Kobe. Before I knew it, we had arrived in the magnificent port city of Pusan. I had made it to the land of Hyundai, Samsung, and Kimchi! I had survived!
So, How much did it all cost to escape from Japan to Korea? In total, I spent a whopping 315$ over 2 days. Yes, I said whopping. It really put a dent in my bank account. However, I could have made the journey for a lot cheaper if I had decided to take the slow boat all the way. I figured out that the cheapest way to get from Tokyo to Pusan without flying is by passenger ferry or bus.The ferry takes around 29 hours but is only 80$ for second class. The bus is around 50$ making it the cheapest but it is almost an equally long ride. Which one you deicide to take really depends on whether you are more prone to car sickness or sea sickness. Both Ferry and Bus will take you to Shimonseki or Hataka so that you will be able to find a 70$ ferry to Busan. However, in the end, taking a plane is going to be the quickest and cheapest way. Flights sell for 150$ on average. If you would like more information on routes, ferry/bus companies and costs, don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope my experience helps if you ever need to escape Japan in a hurry or on a budget.
Good luck and safe travel,