Last weekend was one of my favorite holiday weekends in Japan, Sports Day, or Taiiku no Hi 体育の日. The weather during this weekend is always gorgeous and Kansai finally starts to cool down after a long summer. Some of my best vacations in Japan have been during this weekend.
This year Josh and I kept it more low-key. We were just going to kick it around the house, but Friday night Josh suggested we go camping somewhere close by. I tried calling around to some campgrounds in Hyogo, but they were all booked. I've said it a million times before, but seriously, you can't do anything last minute here because whatever you want to do will already be booked. Though I've had this lesson taught to me many a time, even I was surprised by campgrounds being full. We were feeling stumped about what to do at this point when I remembered where we went camping a few years back for my first camping trip ever, the abandoned Fukuchiyama train tracks near Takarazuka. With no campgrounds, we wouldn't need to worry about reservations or showing up to a booked place. We could just set our tent down wherever we liked and we wouldn't have to hike a million miles to get there.
After gathering our supplies for the Wok's of Life Pho Ramen, Josh and I packed our bags and headed off to Takedao station. People hiking the trail normally start from Namaze station, but since we knew where we wanted to go and we weren't interested in hiking the entire trail with our packs, we started from Takedao station and walked around 20 minutes to get to a perfect spot right off the river and far enough off the trail that we wouldn't have to worry about early morning hikers stumbling across us.
Right outside the station things turned a bit scary for me when we saw a huge monkey run across the road, jump a fence, and disappear into the mountains we were walking towards. For those who don't know, I was attacked by monkeys a few years ago and I have intense anxiety whenever I see one in the wild. I had no idea there were monkeys in Hyogo and I stayed on edge most of the night that one would come out of nowhere.
We started building a fire straight away on the riverbank when we got to our desired spot. Gathering wood might rank low on my list of preferred activities to do, but there is something so primal about creating a fire with another person. Now it's just a fun way to pass the time, but at one point in our history fire was essential to our survival. Prometheus suffers eternally at the hands of Zeus for giving us fire gifted from Mt. Olympus and now fire has merely become a way to pass the time during a few nights of the year for many of us.
For us that night fire meant dinner or no dinner. We were a bit dumb to forget a grate to cook our food over, but we thought we'd be fine balancing our cookware over some sturdy logs. We were wrong. We had sauteed the onions and had added the beefy jerky and water when the logs cracked and it all toppled into the fire. Thankfully we still had our ramen and greens left, but it made for a bitter dinner since we could smell the onions burning up in the fire all night long.
The air that night was crisp and the moon was so bright it illuminated the area around us. We kept our rainfly off for a while to sit in our tent and watch the stars. Even though my Marmot Trestle sleeping bag says it's good for 30 degrees F, I started chilling so we put the rain fly on to warm us up. I ended up being reeeeaaaaalllly glad we did because around midnight I woke up to a huge crash outside and heard steps rustling outside our tent. My first thought went to monkey, then boar, then hermit human. I made enough noise to scare off whatever was out there, but I had dreams of boars trying to push their way into our tent all night. I'm waiting for the camping trip we have where nothing goes wrong. I guess it wouldn't be camping if everything was perfect though. That's part of the experience of dealing with nature one on one.
We woke up to footsteps walking past on the trail. We rekindled the fire and had a slow breakfast of store bought pastries and bananas. I kept wishing we had bacon and eggs. As we were taking down our tent, I kept thinking how glad I was that we upgraded all our camping gear for our 5th anniversary and had my sister bring it with her. If you don't go camping very often in Japan, anything you buy on amazon for cheap will be fine. Josh always says it's not the tent, it how well you put it up and that's so true. We had a little 4,000 yen tent that we used for years and that tent stayed dry in some really atrocious weather. However, our new Marmot Tungsten is awesome. It's so easy to set up and a breeze to take down. I get really excited anytime we get to use it because I love it so much. If you do want to upgrade to nicer gear while you here and you're American, please just wait till you can get someone to bring it to you from the US or next time you're home on vacation. All of those backpacking sites have really good sales and coupon codes which means you get to buy that stuff for at least half of what you'd pay for it in Japan.
We left the way we came in. The sky was bright and the weather that special autumn crispness. It was a bit of a shock to see groups of people coming in when we had just spent 16 hours in total solitude. Our quick escape into nature was over and in less than an hour we were home.