Ichinose 2018

On slope
On slope
On slope

The  annual family snow trips have been a popular event for  us for a while – it’s not too much of a drive (~4.5 hours / 320Km), to Nagano Prefecture’s Shiga Kogen area, and even better, the last 15Km requires [rubber] chains or snow tyres, and as we have the former, I do get to enjoy driving in the mountains.

some trees
some trees

We usually like to try different places to stay for a bit of variety, but this year we stayed at the same place for two weekends in the ‘village’ of Ichinose,  thanks to getting a deal staying at the Hotel Japan for a few days via Expedia.

bit of snow
bit of snow

Disconcertingly, this hotel we chose had a fire a couple of years ago in the main wing apparently, though from what we saw, it all looked like business as usual aside from lots of reminders not to smoke…   I don’t know why, but does the name ‘Hotel Japan’ seem a bit generic?  That said, breakfast was decent, it’s above an excellent Nepalese restaurant, and the onsen is nice and clean.

Car parks and snow
Car parks and snow

Anyway, for families, Ichinose is very decent – a cluster of hotels, some bars and restaurants, and access to much of the Shiga Kogen ski resort area, and even over to Kusatsu if you drive just a little bit more. We spent time around the Diamond area nearby – it’s not awesome powder or insane double diamonds, but it’s a nice family paced warm up area, then we drove the 5Km around to Okushiga, as they have a good ski school for the kids, and a good mix of steep,  S bend oriented forest runs for variety, and on a good day, some nice powder – it’s also just a bit of a slide over to the Yakebitaiyama courses.


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Review: The Fourth Phase

The Fourth Phase is the third snowboard focused film / travelogue from Brain Farm, mainly featuring the ideas and riding of Travis Rice and  friends.

The very short version:  It’s a well shot video of snowboarding and life following the water cycle across the north Pacific with some wit and wisdom from Travis Rice and friends thrown in. I enjoyed it the first time around on my home BD / TV, and I even enjoyed it second time around on my phone during my commute into Tokyo.  It’s re-watchable.

The Nighter

Still reading? Thanks, here’s the slightly longer version.

This video came five years after the excellent Art of Flight (2011), and almost nine since That’s it, That’s all (2008). I recommend both of those previous ones by the way.

It notionally follows the cycle of water around the north Pacific, meaning it starts in Wyoming (as ever with a Travis Rice part), then scoots via Travis’ catamaran across the Pacific to Japan, then to Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands in Russia, before heading back to Alaska.  The Fourth Phase of the title alludes to some wonderful property water possesses beyond solid, liquid and gaseous phases, derived from the book by Gerald H. Pollack.

That’s the metaphysical bit behind the title, but what about the film itself?

Compared to Art of Flight, there are fewer of the epic slow-motion and dolly shots, and more point-of-view and drone footage. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, making it feel more personal. As for the other personnel, there are a few guests per region, but it’s anchored around Travis Rice and Mark Landvik. They’re both personable on screen, whereas some of the other riders look overly self conscious. Landvik always comes across well I think, so a good choice there, especially as things develop, but there needed to be more of them together.

Fire Festival
Fire Festival

The time in Japan I especially liked. I’m biased I know as I live and snowboard here, but those scenes more completely captured what it’s about – great tree runs, hikes out, the very surreal feel in the countryside during the epic amounts of powder snow and deluges of water the islands get, and the people who live in the mountain regions. The standouts were the fire festival footage, and the eerie illuminated night tree-runs, so well done to the team for the location work and cinematography.

Music is always a key part of snowboarding videos, and this one moves from classical to rock to synth pop, and it broadly works, though some bits don’t seem to work as well as others. The orchestral sections in Russia are excellent for example, but some of the synth-pop for the Japan sections seemed a little disconnected to the visuals. Much of the soundtrack was done by musician Kishi Bashi.

The Russian section is interesting even if there isn’t so much riding, just through the geography of the place, yet there are snowboarders there, even if the set-piece of the crew giving some local kids a board feels a little clumsy, a bit more explaining what the local boarder community is up to would have been more useful than the surf scene, which whilst fun, didn’t really add as much as more with the local kids would have.

There is of course plenty of big mountain riding, hikes, great heli-drops and at least a few nice ramps.  There’s also the hospital section which is now either a requirement or a tradition at this point.

One minor disappointment with the BD version I have are the extras – not as many fun outtakes as previous discs, and even the behind the scenes sections seemed a little forced.

If you see reviews, reception was mixed – maybe they wanted Art of Flight 2  which is a little unlikely as this wasn’t directed by Curt Morgan, it was from Jon Klaczkiewicz,  and as I understand it, there was an Art of Flight series which should’ve covered that?

I think there’s a few things going on here.

Firstly, as this is built around Travis Rice, he’s getting older, and whilst he brought other younger riders in, this is more about his thought process, and what he’s into, which was doing runs he hadn’t done before. Yes, his first world philosophizing about being a seeker is a little cringe inducing, but you can tell he believes it and to his credit, is getting out there and doing it.

Also, given all the snowboard videos available online these days, it’s difficult to know if the sponsors would go for yet another flurry of epic jumps in Alaska by itself, or whether Red Bull, GoPro, Skullcandy and all the other very obvious sponsors would want to do that, given they’re already saturating those markets online.

On the ‘missed opportunities’ side, I actually wanted to see a bit more of Travis Rice on the catamaran, beyond the philosophizing, actually following this water cycle the premise hangs on.  I’m always keen to hear more from Brian Iguchi too, who just seems like a very calm chap to sit down with.

Ultimately it’s a great film to watch but it’s straddling two different genres – it’s not an hour and a half of shredding and epic jumps, but it’s not really a travelogue either since there really isn’t enough about what happens locally – even the Russian shutout wasn’t really explained for example.

If you want straight riding and tricks with the odd laugh, probably better to go back to That’s It, That’s All in this series.

 

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Last Fireworks of the ‘Summer’

A few weeks ago we were down at the beach near Enoshima, where it was the closing hanabi of the Summer festival season – yes, in October. I think it’s one of the last formal fireworks events in Shonan for the year, and it attracted several thousand people, on the beach and the strip of grass and parks between the beach and the main coastal road.

The whole thing went for just under an hour, a little longer than normal, but not as long as some of the big ones around Japan. The atmosphere was great though; there’s just something relaxing about being down by the beach, sitting around and watching fireworks – and quite a few people were finishing off BBQs.

When the fireworks finished, in an impressive finale, there was a generous round of applause. It was also good that  had quite a few designs I hadn’t seen before, and there were fewer ‘character’ based ones like Doraemon, which I find a little cheap.

I should say, I’m awful at taking pictures of fireworks, mainly because I’m, you know, busy watching them instead of getting the camera right. Instead of a shakey and blurry picture of fireworks then, I thought I’d put in an equally generic photo of sunset around Fuji from Enoshima I took as we were waiting, and a short video as I was testing out my new GoPro.

Fuji from the beach
Fuji from the beach

To give a rough idea, here’s a 60 second video of the finale, though if you look around the net, there are much better examples!

明けましておめでとうございます 2016!

A slightly belated greeting into 2016, which we’ll be calling Heisei 28. It’s all about the reign of the Emperors, and is designed to confuse me when I come to sort my taxes out next month.

We did the midnight tick-over at home with the family, but for Hatsuhinode – the first sunrise of the year – I was out on the motorbike to meet up with some friends.  Since I was riding into the sunrise, I thought I’d get the old GoPro Hero 2 out and do a timelapse:

We met up at a Konbini, and I was able to get my traditional biking breakfast of onigiri, but this one was unfortunately common – grilled salmon (焼き鮭) but still did the trick.

Shake Onigiri
Shake Onigiri

Then it was time to ride back up the 134 through lighter traffic, to meet up with a few more people at the Seisho SA, which boasts a great view of the bay, clean toilets and allows you to enjoy the quality musical coffee machines. I never get bored of this Pacific Ocean road on the bike, and just have to remember to take my turn inland – it’s easy to just keep following this road down the Izu pensinsula.

From there, it was on up to the Mazda Skylounge to take in the view along the Mazda turnpike (now 520yen one way).

At the Skylounge you can guarantee a good selection of people on any given day, and here on New Year’s Day I was impressed to see a steady stream of older people – alone and in groups – come up in taxis, take in the view and perhaps have a drink, then get back in the taxis to wherever they’d come from. For myself I had a cup of tea and decided to try the chili cheese hot dog. In no way traditional, or even advisable, but it did taste pretty good. No photo sadly.

Finally, thanks to Frank for getting a line-up shot and for putting the day together:

New Year 2016
New Year 2016

Here’s to hoping 2016 continues as well as it started, and all the best to everyone.

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Camping at BOSCO

We like to get out camping regularly, so I thought I should add one of the recent places we stayed at since I haven’t added any for a while – the BOSCO camp site.

BOSCO is up in the mountains of central Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tanzawa. I love the drive up there as you go over the Yabitsu Touge, a narrow winding road, which is great fun on two wheels, and still acceptable on four. Just beware hikers who walk on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

bosco6

It’s a nice site – and a large one, but I don’t mean it’s pitch next to pitch next to pitch, it’s spread out along a valley and a stream along with some tributaries. It’s organised by pitch size too; as there were just 3 of us in a small tent with minimal ‘stuff’, we got a nice pitch by a stream and waterfall. Larger groups got large pitches further downhill, catering for up to six or seven family/groups it seemed, which I think it probably a good idea. Obviously then this is not back country, but it’s not cramped and impersonal either, and even the larger groups were friendly and the atmosphere was relaxed, which reflects the people the site attracts.

There are places for the kids to play, some hiking routes, and the main stream. Tip: always wear full shoes, not sandals though as mountain campsites do tend to have the small Japanese leeches – Yamabiru. I know that sounds disgusting, but trust me, they’re not actually that bad. If they bite you, you can lever them off with a fingernail, and put a plaster on it. As they use anesthetic (and anti-coagulant), it doesn’t actually hurt.

bosco4

We didn’t hire a BBQ or fire bowl, but these are options, and the latter at least looked relaxing. I love BBQs, but when camping, I prefer my small stoves.

This also reflects the differences in camp style – I tend to travel light, small (4 sqm) tent, more backpacking sized gear, despite having the kids with me, and they don’t seem to mind. We have a small camping table, tarp and some chairs, and that’s about it.  The 3 person family just over from us had a Snow Peak ‘Land Lock’ tent which retails at near 200,000yen, and is ~ 26sqm. That’s a serious sized tent, and though many ‘auto campers’ do indeed try to take a decent chunk of their house/apartment with them, that’s not to say all do – I picked up some tips on kit and technique from a few groups who had very functional  gear and seemed to be having a better time, and one chap on a motorbike rolled up with just a bivvy bag and a tarp strung over his old BMW.

The site has decent toilets in quite a few locations, a shower block (we didn’t see it), and some good fresh water and plate cleaning sinks, which were great, and everyone kept them clean. The staff were also very friendly, which helped after a leech took an enthusiastic bite at my foot and after I levered him off, I needed a plaster, and answered the perennial question of ‘what did I forget this time?’. Yes, plasters. The chap at the entrance gave me a couple for free from their first aid kit.

bosco2

I should also mention that the rubbish disposal area was excellent – allowing for not only the usual food packaging to be disposed of cleanly, but also the gas bombe cans, which was helpful. Of course we know to never, ever mix your gomi up in Japan! There’s a little shop too with some basic packaged food and fuel if you’ve forgotten anything, but sadly no plasters.

I should say BOSCO is a little expensive – at the time we stayed, just the pitch and with a ‘late out’ for the Sunday – meaning we could leave at 4pm rather than 11am – ran to 9,000yen. That’s a lot for a camp site pitch, but the 1,000yen just for the late out is probably worth it, since about 80% of people were up and packed away around 10am, leaving most of the day for us to mull around in peace.

We had a great time – there was very little rain whilst we were there, and it’s a beautiful location, and easy to hike around, and it kept us all engaged whilst we were there, which is really the objective of a bit of a camp – get away from it all, walk around, cook some food and read a book if I get a few minutes.  There’s something very calming about reading a book next to a river, or watching the clouds drifting as mist down the stream through camp, and crossing the stepping stones, so we may go again later this year.

 

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Isehara Camping during Rainy Season

It’s fair to say that I like to get outdoors. Although I’m not a frequent or avid camper, now that the kids are sort of old enough, I think it’s important we all get out and get some outdoors and tent time in.

We first went together in 2012, but for a pile of reasons we missed last year, and so this year we’re trying to make up the trip count. June is  part of Japan’s rainy season, but undaunted I booked a spot at a place I hadn’t camped at before up in the mountains, near a river,called Yamagoya.  It’s only a bit over an hour  from the house, so I thought that if it turned into a complete disaster I’d just have to up sticks and it would be a short drive back.

As the date came up, it was clear it would rain at some point. On the day we drove up it was raining, and when we arrived, I expected the kids to complain, but actually they loved it, and I have to say, they didn’t complain once during the whole weekend.

The site is small, running about 100m along a small river bank. Come the real summer they’re mainly set up with family sized BBQ sites, but right now they just had a few tarps up covering about half of them. They actually only have 3 designated tent pitches. This was the first odd point  – the pitches were away from the river, and broadly flat, but they’d put several layers of stones there, which may have helped run-off and drainage, but made getting the tent pegs in quite a bit harder, and of course the rain makes everything more slippery.  Like the previous camp though, I set up my GoPro on time lapse, and afterwards made a video from it – the kids love watching the tent go up at high speed!

The stones could have been a bigger issue, had I not brought our Thermarests, of which I’ve become a bit of a fan over the last few years, meaning for the kids especially, they could get comfy in their sleeping bags on one of these mattresses, and get some sleep.

Once the tent was up we went in to the adjoining cafe for some lunch. They only have a small menu, very Japanese oriented, which is fine, but not much for the kids. That said, the tofu salad and udon we ordered was excellent, and we could divide it between the three of us. They also do desserts and kakigouri (shaved ice with some fruit cordial), which obviously did go down well with the kids. It wasn’t expensive, given they’re serving a relatively captive audience, but marginally more expensive than a family restaurant.

Tenting in the Rain

As the rain came down gently, it was actually quite picturesque, looking down the river, and off a slight cliff down the valley. The kids were happy with my decision that since they were wet anyway, paddling into the river a little wasn’t going to do any more damage, so we passed quite a bit of time just exploring the riverbank and the site.

One of the best things about camping is cooking outside though, and it’s something my kids like too. For normal meals at home they can sometimes be picky, but when it comes off a BBQ or the camping stoves, there are no arguments. The drizzle had let up a little, so I broke out our two stoves – one is my normal lightweight backpacker stove, the other is a domestic ‘cassette gas’ burner. I found one of the set out tarps which was anchored quite high up, and set up just below and to one side of it – you don’t want to be melting or setting fire to tarps – so we got some rain shelter and played safe. I do like cooking outdoors, and with two stoves, got some spaghetti bolognese going.

One thing I was glad I brought is my Gerber multi-tool – I somehow bent one of the guide lips on my camping stove, and had to gently bend it back into shape with my pliers.

There wasn’t any showers that I noticed, but the toilets were clean enough for a camp site, and part of a concrete building, so the kids weren’t too fussed about it. It’s still odd to me that the same kids who complain about a small mosquito at home, don’t seem bothered by much bigger insects when they’re camping.

Let’s talk about insects. I don’t really have a problem with insects when I’m outdoors, with the possible exception of the midges in Scotland. Insects live outside, it’s what they do. However, twice over the weekend, I must have looked like a tempting and tasty target to Yamaburi, which are Japanese mountain leeches, and I had to remove them both forcefully, but safely (well, safe for me, not so much for them). They’re hardy things I can tell you.

I should probably discuss something about the staff at the site too. They’re very nice and polite, but a little slow, and aren’t entirely intuitive. I noticed this when I booked the site as I booked over a week ahead, confirming everything down to kids ages, arrival and departure times. When my wife called a few days before to check on things (if they rented towels etc.) she got into a weird conversation that the booking was somehow not complete. Finally she got confirmation that actually it was all booked. We still don’t know what the story was there. If it wasn’t complete, why hadn’t they called the mobile number I’d provided. I wonder if they’re the off-peak part timers?

All in all then, a good, simple one night camp. I think we’ll go back later in the year, and take advantage of one of the BBQ spots, as well as the tent pitches, as that would be fun. All that remains is for me to find out how to dissuade the local leeches, or a better way to remove them (if you have any ideas, please add to the comments).

Kiroro Snow Trip 2014

As a country with a spine of mountains and volcanoes, Japan not only gets a lot of snow, it gets a lot of good snow, and has built some great snow resorts up around them, which is possibly another reason why the country has hosted the Winter Olympics a couple of times (1972 & 1998). It’s also the reason why one of the first things I did when I moved here was to take up snowboarding.

This year for our family snow trip, we went up to Kiroro in Hokkaido. As far as I know, Kiroro has not held an Olympic event, but represents another type of Japanese snow resort – the bubble resort. It was built during the height of Japan’s economic bubble in the 1980’s and has well appointed hotels and facilities, which are wearing a little bit, and the place has the feel of something a little over done, but still shows how Japan likes to do things. This is the first time we’ve been back in 6 years (2008, 2006, 2004).

There are two main hotels there with not much else around, as it was a purpose built resort. We stayed at the Mountain Hotel, which is closer to the main slopes, but a few minutes by free shuttle bus down the road is The Piano Hotel which has a large souvenir shopping area, and some more bars.

The are a good selection of courses, though there aren’t that many truly difficult runs, so it’s a relaxing venue, and it’s a resort which likes to leave a fair amount of powder around, especially on the edges of the pistes, which means you can play on the more groomed central areas, then branch off into powder and light trees.

By the time we went in early January, a small ramp of snow had formed at the edges of the pistes, meaning you could get some speed up and ramp into deep powder and between some trees. The powder was so light it was more like surfing at times, pushing down on that back leg and lifting the front up to stop from face planting or just plain stopping due to a lack of traction. Mine is an old 2000 Nitro board which doesn’t flex much, so by the end of a few powder intensive runs, that back leg was getting a little tired. Also, I will admit I had to paddle out a few times from waist deep powder when enthusiasm got the better of me. It was snowing so much that tracks were covered by your next run, and some people were struggling to keep going on the flatter areas.

The nighter course is pretty good too, well lit, and has a good covered 4 person lift up. Regarding the nighter, they have an ‘evening’ pass, and a ‘nighter’ pass – the former is about 1000 yen more and gets you an extra hour.

Thankfully, a day lift pass gets you the nighter included, which is nice, because I know some resorts which charge extra for that. I also didn’t see a ‘first run’ fee, which is another bolt-on extra some resorts started doing a while ago.

I also spent a day on my skis and really enjoyed it – likely because they have some gentler slopes for that, and skis are still not something I’m competent on, but I do enjoy them, and it means I can ski with my eldest, though she outpaces me nowadays. Wait till next year and we’re both on boards!

If you have a family, it’s good for the children’s ski school and activity centre which isn’t too expensive in comparison to some resorts, and they’ve gotten the kit rental for kids well integrated. As ever in Japan nowadays, the quality of the rental kit was excellent, the teachers were good and if you need it, a few spoke some English. There’s a large section of the area in front of the hotel dedicated to a family lift, a children’s play area and a sledging area, all of which is kept separate from the main ski areas.

The weekdays were very quiet which was great for us, and even at the weekend, it never got crowded. Also at the weekend, they had a DJ booth in the hotel snow centre, run by the local radio station, Air G FM in Hokkaido, who drive the music for the resort, take some requests and hold competitions, which actually added quite a bit of energy to the whole resort (snowboarding to old Wham songs was a bit odd).

The only downside to Kiroro is the cost, specifically of evening meals. The breakfast buffet is often included with the hotel price, and it had a decent selection. Lunch either on the mountain or in the hotel restaurant was also reasonable for a snow resort, such as ramen running from 980 – 1,300yen a bowl. However, you should be aware of the evening meal prices – they range from 4,200 – over 8,000yen per person – even a child’s meal in some restaurants cost over 2,000yen though we found one in the Piano hotel for 500yen but it was basically some soup and rice, and the adult meals were still over 4,200.

If you’re not on a package deal, be aware there aren’t any real supermarkets or restaurants outside of the hotels, so your only alternative is cup ramen and instant yakisoba from the snack shops in both hotels. We took this latter option as it was so much cheaper with 2 children, but also because it took us back to our roots on snow trips which we did things as cheaply as possible. There is a bus to Niseko which apparently takes an hour each way, but we didn’t explore that option.

The area doesn’t have the natural onsen spa baths some do, but the Mountain Hotel does have a ‘fake’ onsen, and a rotenburo, both of which were clean and well maintained. There’s something fantastic about spending the day on the mountain, washing off, then relaxing in pools of hot water for a while. Why more countries don’t have this, I have no idea. This was the first year I could take my son in too, and he loved it.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do another snow trip this year, but if this turns out to be the only one, I have to say I really enjoyed it. Kiroro is aging well, and whilst there are some pricing issues there, the place is a good place to spend a few days.

Shonan Beach – July

I live in the Shonan area of Kanagawa, so in the summer we often go down to the beach area, which is what the area is really famous for, and after a day hanging around, getting into the ocean and walking around the beach, you can get some nice sunset shots and people venture home. Of course, if you’re in the water, take the waterproof camera (in my case an old GoPro 2). Actually this day, it wasn’t so busy, as usually the beach hut bars are fairly crowded.

Shonan 2013 - July
Shonan 2013 – July
Shonan 2013 - July
Shonan 2013 – July
Shonan 2013 - July
Shonan 2013 – July

Rusutsu Snow Trip 2013

In January,  we took the family up to Rusutsu in Hokkaido for a bit of snowboarding and skiing. Yes, this post is a little late.

The resort feels very much like a bubble place, but essentially is a collection of hotels and a few chalets around three main mountain ski areas. We stayed in the Resort Hotel North, which is at the base of one of the ski areas. Is it really a bubble era hotel? Well, it has an animatronic talking tree, some animatronic bears (or dogs, perhaps), and a full double decker carousel in the foyer which you could ride for free every evening, so yes, it’s very much a bubble hotel, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you aren’t paying bubble fees.

We went for an all in package with breakfast and dinner, especially as the food at the in-house restaurants was good – believe me, we’ve stayed at places where the breakfasts were awful, and yes, I’m looking at you, Yamada Onsen in Niseko! As I’ve learned, with kids, having a buffet with a decent selection is vital to keep the complaints down.

Rentals weren’t too expensive, and the kit was very good, as is pretty much standard here nowadays, and the staff were fairly multi-lingual given the decent number of Chinese and Australian guests – also pretty much standard here nowadays.  The instructors were good too, and our eldest got some lessons in when she wasn’t skiing with me. For once I wasn’t renting ski boots, having picked up a cheap pair of Head ski boots in Jimbochou for Xmas last year, and it was nice to have a consistent setup for a whole trip.

Rusutsu’s got a good selection of courses too, and on clear weather days, some great views. I’m not sure whether I prefer it to Niseko, but it’s still got a decent selection of runs, and some hilarious tree routes. There’s a snow park, where I spent a morning. I’ve never been much into jumps and such, but I did actually have a good time in there, so next season I might invest a bit more time in the snow parks and see how it goes.

I also took my GoPro out, and got some great shots of the kids skiing, and us out on our snowboards. As I’m a much better boarder than skier, it was interesting to shift from trepidation on even easier intermediate slopes on skies, to double diamond slopes through the trees on my board, and just feeling challenged, rather than concerned I was going to break something.

I tried the camera both mounted to the board, and a headcam, and actually, I think it works as both, but obviously you get a lot of snow blowing up onto the camera on it’s board mount. One note though, unless you have the anti-fog inserts, you’ll want to regularly open the casing to lot the condensation dissipate after about 20mins.!

All in all, we had a great trip, and even the flights and travel went fairly smoothly, so no complaints there.

Family Camp – Stone Chair

I should say up front that though I’m not an ardent camper, I do like getting outdoors and camping now and then. Before we had the kids, we’d camp at the Fuji Rock Festival and such, and quite enjoyed it, so now the kids are a bit older, and at least big enough to fend off (or try to eat) all but the biggest insects, we decided to have a test family camping expedition last week.

I asked around some more camp experienced friends, about where was a good ‘easy’ camp site for families, and camp guru CL over at Shonan in English pointed us at Stone Chair, down in Izu, near Itou, about half-way down the peninsula.

I like to travel light, but with kids, that’s not quite as do-able, as you really need to carry a few more ‘Plan B’ items just in case. Most of the items we’ve been just adding to over the years, so now we’re pretty complete, and I put some of the things we’ve found really useful at the end of the post.

So we threw everything in the back of the car, and set off for Stone Chair, a little nervous that we are technically in rainy season, and the clouds were heavy, but actually we got lucky, since it was beautiful blue skies the whole time we were out and about.

Basic equipment list

The name you see most regarding camping here, is the Coleman brand – they make everything you could need for camping, and a lot more, and seemingly the quality is decent for the average family camp, during Spring, Summer and early Autumn. The ‘stuff’ we took then included:

  • Basic Logos 4 person tent ( a bit like this one)
  • Thermarest foam air mattresses – I personally think these are worth the money over the rolled blue foam pads
  • Basic sleeping bags – mainly Spring / Summer 15degC+ ones for the family
  • Coleman quad light (this is excellent as you can give the kids their own light for wandering around).
  • A head lamp – always useful to keep your hands free to work on things in the dark.
  • Cool box with ice packs for all the food
  • Some camping pots and pans
  • A camping stove, and we also took our ‘cassette gas‘ one.
  • My old Solio – great if the phone / game batteries run low.
  • Lots of anti-mosquito and bite spray!

That was pretty much it, the rest were some clothes, books, wipes, towels and the stuff you end up taking with kids to most places anyway.

I should say that the people at Stone Chair were great – they responded well to e-mails and phone calls, and kept their Japanese within my level, and made us feel welcome, but didn’t hang around too much, and let us get on with it.They also seem to have some wood artwork going on and there were some nice pieces dotted around the facilities.

Woodwork
Woodwork

The facilities aren’t too bad either – toilets are clean (if you excuse the inevitable insects), and there are showers available. Much of the space is devoted to tenting areas, all flat and set aside from each other with bushes and trees. If you fancy it, there are also plenty of proper barbeque places, as open camp fires are forbidden.

We also looked at the small lodges available, but who needs those when you have a tent! We didn’t see a shop nearby so you may need to drive to one, and depending on which way you approach the place, the roads can be steep and very narrow since it really is set aways back from the coast, on the side of one of Izu’s mountains, so it’s quiet, and quite secluded.

The fee for pitching our tent for the night, and use of the toilets and such was 6,000yen, though we got another 10% discount as we were midweek, and I think frankly because we were the only people there! So if you’re looking for a simple family camp area, take a look at Stone Chair.

A View from the Stone Chair