Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cool time in the mountains!

Last weekend had a holiday Monday, so we headed out for some camping to the Fuji 5 Lakes area with Liz (a fellow teacher), her husband, Hamish, and their two children, Finn and Maya. They had recently bought a car that had room for all of us and our gear.

After a hectic, hot and sweaty Friday night of packing and last-minute shopping, we fell into bed at midnight, only to awaken at 5 am in order to make an early connection to their train line. By seven in the morning, we were headed west toward Mount Fuji. We took a longer route to the north to avoid the holiday traffic on the main highway, winding through the mountains and enjoying the cooler temperatures.

After five hours of driving and without campsite reservations, we drove past the other lakes (Kawaguchiko, Saiko, and Shojiko ["ko" means "lake"]) to Motosuko and to the farthest campground from Tokyo.

We found a really nice campsite among the trees and spent some time on the beach. That night, we fell asleep early to the sounds of the RV campers partying it up with multiple Coleman lanterns and music; it was good to see that there are "those" kinds of people in campsites all over the world.

The next morning, we drove back around the lake to a viewpoint of Mount Fuji; he was out in all his splendor.

Then we drove to Lake Shoji to see what we could see: kayak races, in turned out! We stopped at a lakeside restaurant to have "houtou udon," a regional special with thick, wide udon noodles in a thick stew of vegetables and meat.

After lunch, we consulted the map and found that there was an old shrine just up the hill with antique cedars. So to stretch our legs and out bellies, we walked up the narrow road behind the restaurant.

As we climbed up the slope, a van came down between the houses. As it slowed down to pass, I realized that we knew the driver. It was Jacob, an American who runs an organic food cafe nearby. We had met him the month before at an event for the environmental organization that Joan writes for. He also restores old Japanese houses, and the narrow strip of houses we were exploring was one of his latest projects.

Some of the house had been renovated with modern insulation and new siding.

Another had been completely redone and transformed into a fusion of modern and traditional Japan. He gave us a tour of the house and told us about his experiences in the area. We hope to go back and visit him at his "Solar Cafe."

We headed back to the campsite to go swimming and cook dinner. As it got darker, Finn and Hamish started a small campfire with some leftover firewood and pine cones. It was actually cool enough that the heat of the fire felt good, and we all pressed close.

In the morning, we broke camp and went for a last swim, getting a nice little sunburn in the process.

Then, it was another long, slow drive back into Tokyo; the temperature getting higher and higher. When we finally got home, we opened up the windows to air it out, turned on the AC and sat on the front porch, eating ice cream until the apartment cooled enough to be habitable.

It was a really relaxing weekend, especially since the battery died on the iphone on Saturday morning. It is a sad reflection on modern life that two days without Internet could be so relaxing...

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