So, I went into the tatami room closet and pulled out everything I needed for an awesome car camping weekend: sleeping pads, sleeping bags, little camping pillows, tarp, tent, stadium chairs, foldable table and grill. We also went shopping and bought some delicious food, along with ice for the cooler. The menu included beef lettuce wraps, eggs, PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches. We also brought curry along but didn't end up eating it.
Friday morning, I went into work really early to participate in the "Moto Run," which is a monthly command run. I hadn't done it until Friday, which may seem like a strange time to decide to start but this month, the Officers were in charge so I had to show up and represent. While it was more of a jog than a run, it was fun mostly due to the cadence callers. I want to learn some good cadences now!
I answered a few emails and then headed home around 8 after making sure my leave chit was submitted. SMS and I packed up the car and we were off before 10.
The drive up was about 4 hours. We headed North past Yokohama then made a left West just outside of Shibuya. There was some traffic in Tokyo, which led to an inadvertent adventure when Google Maps asked if we wanted a re-route. I pushed the accept button and while I think we saved time, I also think we went down streets that were never meant to be streets! We went on some side roads near Umegaoka-eki and they were so narrow and full of people. It was nerve-wracking driving although I was only the passenger at that point! The neighborhood looked really cool though and SMS and I want to head back and explore. We will definitely take the train though!
|Yes, this hot dog is wrapped in an American Flag. It was right next to the dessert|
stand with "Let It Go" from Frozen on repeat
|From L to R: First campsite, The Jerks <:(, Second Campsite|
|Left: Our rock climbing route, Top Right: Panorama Trail View, Bottom Right: SMS before entering the creek|
|L: Creek R: SMS in our campsite|
That night we had much better sleep since it was cooler and the whole campground was quiet by 10. *Grumble, grumble!* We had actually switched sites to be further away from the loud group and the parking lot, which did help but I think it was the Japanese courtesy towards the group that led to the rule following. The campsite parking lot was full that night, compared to the night before when there were 8 cars, max.
|So many cows!|
On Sunday, SMS and I were feeling a little lazy so we decided to sightsee rather than force outdoor adventure. I had read about Matsumoto Castle, which was about 2 hours away. We ate breakfast, packed up our bags and headed off. On our way out, we stopped at the cow field I noticed on the drive in. There were several hay bales with the cutest anime cows printed. I took several pictures. We also went into the little market, which was a dairy store attached to a full-sized dairy. We bought cheese and a small yogurt drink. Both were delicious!
|1. Left: SMS and I with some rando who wandered into the picture, ha ha 2. Right: Matsumoto|
We arrived in Matsumoto, parked and walked to the castle. Just outside the gate was a tent set up by the ALSA Goodwill Association with a banner saying, "Free English Tours." We decided to go for it and had a great tour by Tadasi-san. He was very knowledgeable and it was fun to have a deeper explanation of the castle's history. One of the more fascinating aspects was his explanation of several stories contained within a large mural painting on display. From the mid-far right going clockwise, the storyline of an entire battle, complete with heroes, legends, victory and defeat was all contained within this one painting. It was fascinating. Tadasi-san learned about it after watching an art history documentary on Japanese National Television.
|Left: Another view of Matsumoto, Right: SMS, Tadasi and I|
After the tour, we bade Tadasi farewell and had a soba noodle lunch before hitting the road, along with everyone else heading back to Tokyo. After crawling in traffic near Odawara, we decided to brave the coastal route because we figured nothing could be slower than the highway back to Tokyo. Fortunately, we were right and the road was surprisingly empty. We stopped at Cantina for Neapolitan pizza and a Caesar salad. It was delicious. Then we hopped on the expressway home, unpacked the things that would otherwise smell if left in the car and called it a day.
It was a great weekend! I really want to go back and I've already started prelim planning for a group trip over Labor Day. We'll see what comes up between now and then, but if it works out, it'll be so much fun!