I don’t know how we got there… but we did. We just relied on Google maps and had some help from our Japanese friends for scoring us our train tickets and for translating to us some important information about where we were going. (We had a guidebook, in Japanese, and it was probably the only guidebook that gave information on how to get there.) My friend did most of the research as it was his idea to go there in the first place. I did the asking around for directions. Tim, who’s from New Zealand had a very thick accent and couldn’t just make it into saying Japanese words clear enough for the locals to understand him to save his life. Me on the other hand, can parrot words almost perfectly—desu. And in that sense, we were a good team. And here’s how we got there:
Going to Mawarime Daira campsite, situated somewhere between Nagano and Yamanashi Prefecture is, I must say, a bit of a tricky trip especially for foreign travelers like me and Tim. From Tokyo, it takes about 3 hours and five train transfers just to get to where we needed to be. And since the English language, even the crappy translations, tend to dissolve as you move further away from Tokyo; like train stations not having their signs in English so we had to guess, we were far from getting on cruise control. Quite agitating really, but in a good way. Then there’s 20 kilometers of either walking or catching a bus (that only takes you halfway so we still had to walk the remaining 10 kilometers anyway.) Those were our options. There was no way I could have possibly mustered going 20 kilometers on foot with a heavy bag on my back! So no. Bus? “Dude, where’s the bus? Where’s the bus, dude?”
Hitchhiking: Not so common in Japan, we’ve been told. But there we were being offered a ride by family of vacationers. We were definitely out of the way as they have mentioned upon small talk that they just came from their house by the campsite. They didn’t mind going back to take us there nonetheless. They even let us shop for food and supplies at Nana’s Superstore. Ahhh… Japanese hospitality. And we only asked for directions. We bought candy for the kids as our way of saying “thank you”. After all, these people spared us from burning a million calories walking twenty kilometers carrying our heavy back packs and what have you.
Half way down the road, you can see the mountain in wonderful rock formations from
afar. We passed along lettuce fields which were very organized, perfectly aligned and evenly spaced. Very Japanese. At the speed the car was going, staring half-blindly at rows and rows of lettuce from the sprouts section to the full-grown section, it was as if I was watching it grow in time-lapse. Very cool. I was definitely drifting off somewhere at that time.. like how I’m drifting off now in my writing. Where were we?
So… we got there!
The campsite was suh-weet! The Ryokan or the Inn resembled a 16th century timber-framed house. Around it, the parking area, campsite, and dining area. The dining area offered a Panoramic view of the mountains that looked a bit like those you see from fantasy movies. We might as well have been in Middle Earth.
We got our tents, looked around for a flat spot for pitch and settled.
More than anything else, it was camping. The convenience store at the inn was where we got hot water for noodles and microwaveable rice for our canned tuna… yes, you read correct: MICROWAVABLE RICE! The inn also had hot baths for ¥500. Quite convenient for camping? I would still say though that it was “roughing it up” in the sense that the toilets were “squat toilets” and there’s a short walk down hill in pitch-black darkness just to do business. It was freezing cold as well.. at least for a Filipino. Sleeping was a bit tricky too. Trust me, I can sleep almost anywhere, anyhow but when we talk about 8 degrees Celsius and with virtually zero warm clothing due to underestimation and lack of preparation, I was screwed. I got really cold. My feet. My nose. And of course there’s Tim, in his nice and warn sleeping bag, who enjoyed seeing me suffer… every night.
We went, Tim went, bouldering everyday.
We met other climbers there too. A Japanese couple, Tomi and Miyan for example, spoke English and were really cool. They invited us for dinner one time and prepared beef curry over real steamed rice. Perfect for the cold weather. Having noodle soup for six consecutive meals wasn’t fun at all. So the curry definitely shook things up a little. And I love curry. Tomi and Miyan had to travel half-a-day by car to get to Ogawayama for climbing so they came prepared with loads of food, burners, camping gear, etc. So I guess they had something to spare. We just happened to have met some of the most awesome people around.
I didn’t shower for three days. I didn’t care. It was cold, and I didn’t stink anyways. (I swear!) But when I finally did hit the showers, in those traditional spa-like Japanese bath houses that smelt like wood and mint… oh man… I could stay there forever.
We left Ogawayama courtesy of Tomi and Miyan who brought us back by car to the train station. We said goodbye to a wonderful time somewhere far far away and we went on to see Nishikatsura, a small town in the Yamanashi prefecture.