08 August, 2015

Camping in Japan again

It's hard to believe that it's nearly two weeks since we returned from our latest camping trip. We had a rough start, boys were uncooperative and tentative about bugs. One boy got stuck in a particularly good book and didn't help much at all in the setting up camp. That, and the frequent whinging was disappointing. 

However after we got over the initial woes, it turned into a good camp, with a couple of notable exceptions.
We've gone around a corner in the last
year. Now the boys are mostly happy
to make their own fun, especially to sit
and read or play games rather than
needing us to have activities planned
while camping. It's a very pleasant corner,
unless we do indeed have an activity
planned and we have to do significant
work to get them up and going.

They were large and numerous. We arrived just after some rain and there were plenty of miniature frogs out looking to eat the bugs too. The toilets nearest us were full of bugs and frogs. I don't have much of a problem with bugs when camping, unless they're in close confinement with me. . . like in a small toilet cubicle. In the end I found some much cleaner toilets that I could hike to a little further away.

Three out of four airbeds had small holes. Small elusive holes that let our beds down slowly, but wouldn't be found. Our bed was one of them. So, for four nights we slept and pumped, slept and pumped. 

On our second full day of camp we drove 40 minutes to the west coast and met up with some missionary friends we'd met at CAJ via the homeschooling division. We went to church with them and hung out at their house all afternoon. About 5pm we packed up our gear, including noodles for dinner, and hiked to the seaside (I'd say beach, except that I never saw the beach). 

We settled down on large tarps positioned at 4am that morning by our friend. That is the time that the security guards allowed everyone who was queuing to put down their claim of territory for viewing that evening's fireworks. It is a curious system. The one who gets their property down first is the one who gets the territory for the day. No one messes with it, even though that tarp is left unattended all day.

We arrived about two hours before the show began and the flow of people into the area hardly slowed to a trickle in that time. We were told between 30 and 50 thousand were expected to watch the 1 ½ event! Fireworks are really more than just a show, they are a community festival.

After the spectacular event we filed out of the area, with thousands of others. A huge crowd! The reason we walked is so that we could get out faster. We were moving faster than the cars that dared to venture into the area. 

I made a bad judgment, though, of wearing thongs (flip flops). Very quickly I ended up with blisters between my toes. To add to the woe of my left foot particularly, where I already had lost skin when the water cooler back at camp fell on my toe earlier that day. I ended up walking a couple of k's in bare feet. 

We finally got home to our tent at about 11. It was a long, but memorable day.
A large park we discovered about 40 minutes away. It was underpopulated
and great for getting cooler. The water was too shallow to hold our big
boys' attention for too long, though.

Calvin and Hobbes
An unexpected benefit of visiting our friends was their library. Like most isolated missionaries we've met, they've built up a large library of English books. One of the things our boys have been doing since arriving back in Japan is rereading favourite comic books we own (not having access to the school library until school starts). 

It turned out that our friends had all the Calvin and Hobbes books. These were pored over and our camp was thereafter resplendent with Calvin and Hobbes quotes. Our middle son was particularly notable in his lengthy monologues, stringing together many different scenes.

It's not the done-thing to take photos of the
inside of onsens, for obvious reasons.
This I took in a very underpopulated
campsite-onsen in Hokkaido a couple of
years ago. This is the place you wash
with soap, then you immerse yourself in
the large hot bath, with whomever else
is around (single sex).
Our campsite had no bathing facilities. So, as a "service" we were given free daily passes to the public baths down the hill. Oh, the luxury! The cost of the campsite was less than we'd pay if we were to take the family to the onsen. Wow! (You can tell we're part-Japanese now...)

This is one of the fun things for me about camping in Japan, you never know what surprise you're going to find. A surprise like this is worth coming for. 

By the way, we haven't yet encountered a terrible Japanese shower/bathroom at a campsite (terrible toilets, however, yes). That's one huge plus Japan has on Australia in the camping realm.

The final hours of our camp are probably the most memorable. At 3am I woke and went hiking to the loo. I experienced one or two drops of rain on my as I returned. Inside the tent, however, David was already awake shutting windows. Pretty soon the rain grew heavy and things started to go awry.

I never did get back to sleep. By 3.30 the thunderstorm was raging, our awning collapsing and it was dripping inside too. Everyone was awake with little chance of getting back to sleep soon. We decided at that point to break camp a few hours early to avoid getting too saturated.
My feet after cleaning them up when we got home. I hobbled
around packing up camp in the mud with open wounds on
both my feet. You can see remnants of mozzie bites there too.

Under pressure the boys did a fantastic job. The contents of the tent were packed up at an amazing speed with little supervision. Once we got everything out and into the car I realised that David was still in his PJs. I tried to dig around and get him some clothes, but brilliantly managed to drop his only clean shirt in the mud.

Nearby was another great feature of Japanese campsites: the camp kitchen. Large troughs where you can wash up. These generally have roofs and this one even had a large table undercover. We moved our kitchen over there and cobbled together our first breakfast. Then the clouds cleared and some of us went back to pack up the tent and awning (everything else was either in the car by then, or undercover at the kitchen area).

We got that muddy job done (there was precious little grass around, mostly dirt and moss). Then came back for a second breakfast that a couple of the boys were cooking. The rain came down again while we were eating the second time.

By 7am we were on the road home. Taking with us many memories.

It took us a couple of days to finish cleaning up the mess. Tokyo was hot and rainless. But we have no yard to put up the tent to dry it. It got strung off our second floor balcony. I vacuumed the dried mud out of the car and we worked our way with all the other equipment that came back less than clean.

It was satisfying to go to a completely new area of Japan. All in all it was a good camp and we've agreed that we'd like to go back there sometime. (See here for a map of where we went.)

This frog was hard to capture in a photo but he or she was about
the size of my thumbnail. We saw many like this.

One moment of an amazing 1 ½ hrs of continuous fireworks.

Something of a glimpse of the crowd waiting for the fireworks to begin. The large blue tarps were waiting for their owners
to arrive and claim them.

Hango, or Japanese camping rice cookers. Love these!

It was a gorgeous area with many vibrant green fields of rice growing.

Home. You can see how muddy it would have gotten when the rain began.

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