31 March, 2017

Camping with friends

This afternoon we returned from camping for two nights. I'd like to say it's the first time we've camped in Tokyo, but that isn't true. We've camped in Tokyo before, but way out in the western corner of it. This is, however, the closest we've ever camped to home (only 16km and about an hour by car in good traffic).

Some of our day campers, who brought a tonne of food and had
a superb time. We're so glad they made the effort to join us.
It's a place we've been to many times to watch our kids run in cross-country races, but is off-limits for us to camp there due to it being on a US military recreation base. However, one of the families we'd planned to go camping with are former military and not only are able to go into these facilities, but able to sponsor the likes of us.

The four-family camping trip we'd planned for Monday to Thursday at one of the five lakes near Mt Fuji had to be cancelled due to inclement weather (yes, snow!). Our Plan B turned into a two-family camping trip from Wednesday to Friday at Tama Hills Recreation Centre with three other families joining us just for the day on Wednesday. It was quite a riot, especially on Wednesday!

Pretty barren-end of winter look. These trees will be green within the month.
But just now it was fantastic that they let us have all the warming
benefits of the sun because it was still cool in the shade (only about 10C on
Wednesday and today).
I had such a funny feeling on Wednesday as we got started on this adventure. Our camping adventures have been rather private things, something we've generally done on our own, barring a couple of times when we've invited another family to join us. All of a sudden I felt responsible for all these other peoples who joined us, but also touch exposed. All these families are CAJ families, actually all staff families where one or two of the parents are CAJ staff. We're used to interacting with them in other arenas, but not while camping. It was a little weird to start with but things settled down and we had a great time. 

Sunset on the first day.
On Wednesday we had seventeen kids (from seven to late teens) and eight adults in our party. Almost everyone stayed all day, for dinner and then finished off with a trip to the local hot springs for a bath (a very Japanese thing to do in a group). 

Photos aren't allowed at onsens (understandably). But this is one of the
toilet entry. Everyone was walking around in socks/bare feet.
 It was a relief to have special toilet slippers to put on to use the facilities.
The kids did a lot of running around. The property is large (500 acres) and there are a lot of great things to do with little cost. The kids played Corn Holes, an American bean bag game (throwing a bean bag toward a goal), basketball, threw frisbees and a football. They explored the scrub and generally had a super time. Two of our boys rode to the campsite with another teen and so they got to ride around on their bikes also.

The adults walked and talked and sat and read, generally enjoying the lack of schedule.

The same continued the next day. We were slow in getting up and lazed around much of the morning. Several people had naps after lunch too, or read. Then we went down to the activities area and enjoyed archery or mini golf.

We didn't have showers on Thursday night (shhh, don't tell anyone). The shower facilities leave a lot to be desired. Though, it probably was a good thing, because the airforce were using the area for a training exercise, and that included practice interrogations in the men's shower block!

As for the the rest of our time, I'll leave it to photos to show you some of the things we got up to.
Some of us tried archery on Thursday. This is not a
usual activity found on a Japanese campsite!

This piece of land has quite a history. It used to be a
Japanese military munitions processing and storage facility in WW2.

Two tents, one undercover "kitchen" area, and one cooking/relaxing area.
It was like we had different "rooms" on different levels.
This  top room would be called the living room, it had the fire.
Even after the day campers left, we still had eleven of
us camping. I loved the interaction between the kids.
None match up in age exactly. We had 17, 16, 14, 13,
almost 12, 10, and 7 year olds. Two girls and five boys. 
Of course campfires were a highlight. We were, unusually, allowed
open fires and could use any wood we found around.  And we found a lot.
Free entertainment. Two boys (nearly 12 and 7) had a lot of fun
making these art installations.
Packing up to go. We rented one of the school vans and
squeezed all our two family's gear into it, along with our
two families, sans the three cyclists.
Periodically on our journey home, through familiar
city streets, we encountered fabulously dressed
sakura trees.
 We love camping as a family and it's something David and I hope to do for many more years. Camping with other people is a different experience, but really fun when you find equally crazy people who are happy to be laid back about schedule. 

CAJ is more than a school, it provides a community for many who choose to get involved. We're so thankful for the friends we've made through the school. Life can be hectic, especially amongst a mobile international community surrounding such a school, so we're glad for this small opportunity to chill-out with friends.

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