Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Japan Alps

May 24, 2009

I'm ready to blog again. I have some blogs that I had written but never completed. I want to finish documenting our 2008 summer vacation, and from there, I'll move directly to the present.

August 11, 12, 13 and 14, 2008

When we lived in Arizona, we use to go camping two or three times a year. Since we moved to Japan we hadn't been camping for about 3 years. I always assumed it would be impossible, especially because we didn't have any equipment, nor did we have a car and we couldn't speak the language well.

We decided to camp in Kamikochi, which is a camping spot in the Japan Alps. Before I continue, I should also mention, that I like to research and plan all of our vacations. I love reading about a place and dreaming about everywhere I want to see and go.

When I started planning, I told Julian that even though we only had about a week, I actually needed at least a month to see and do everything. So, the cycle of my planning is always the same, me dreaming way too big and then Julian and I negotiating and editing down. Fortunately, we both like to hang out and relax, so it usually works out well. After our negotiations, per his suggestions, we decided to camp for three nights. It was the only place we stayed for more than one night and it was well worth it. On hind sight, I could have stayed there the entire vacation and been very, very happy.

Monday morning, we took a bus from Matsumoto to Kamikochi, which is in the "Japan Alps". It took about 2 hours. When we arrived, there was a big bus terminal with restaurants, souvenir shops a huge parking lot and many people milling around. We walked for about 10 minutes through another area along a beautiful river also with lots of restaurants, hotels, shops and people. As we wandered away from the hub of activity, we got to a really nice campsite along the river.

We arrived at the campsite with nothing but our clothes and a couple of sleeping mats. At the campsite, we could rent a tent, wool blankets, cooking equipment such as a cutting board, pots and pans, knives, a grill, etc. There was a nice shop/restaurant with meat and vegetables for sale as well as meals and various camping supplies. There were also bathrooms with running water. It was deluxe!

In the background, you can see our heavy duty camp site issued tent.

The next day we hiked around the mountains. We went to onsen (hot springs). We had a little picnic by the river with snacks and beer.
As we were walking around the camp grounds, we saw a cordoned off area with a metal barrel near some tents. Many people were looking at the barrel and taking pictures. We were told that a bear had visited the camp site 3 days in a row. One night, the bear had dragged a tent with a person sleeping in it. The metal barrel was a trap. The camping staff had put the metal drum in an open tent with some food in it and they had caught the bear that morning. This was a bit unsettling and provided me with the motivation not to bring food into our tent. Later we saw the staff drive away in a station wagon with the bear. They were returning him to the mountains but a bit further away from our camp site.
Elevated wood platform hiking trail.

On our final day, we took a bus to a small onsen in a mountain. There was a tiny cafe, where you had to wait and you were allowed 30 minutes in the cave. We drank coffee and hung out in the cafe waiting. When it was our turn, the clerk took us to a mountain with a locked door. There were lights and Julian and I went down some stone stairs to a small murky onsen/bath. It was a bit creepy, but we enjoyed it a lot.

Door to the mountain cave that leads to a small onsen.

On our final night, we decided to make meat and veggie kabobs. After dinner, Julian invited the couple in the next tent to hang out with us by our campfire. As we were talking with Ian and Nana, they told us that they live in Osaka and that one of their close friends, Richard, is from Phoenix and lives in Himeji. We were so surprised, because we live and work with Richard in Himeji. Originally, we had invited Richard to go camping with us, but it didn't work out. Richard had invited Ian and Nana as well, so we all showed up there on our own in adjacent tents. We got a bit rowdy and some campers yelled at us for being too loud. Eventually, we went to sleep and we got up early in the morning to catch a bus to Takayama....

Camping Information: Here is a link to a listing of great Tourist Information PDF files compiled by the Japan National Tourist Organization. If you scroll down to the section called "Special Interests" and click the PDF file called "Camping in Japan" it is an English listing of only some of the camp sites around Japan. Kamikochi is number 24 on the list of campsites.

No comments: