This post will be two-fold. I want to tell you about our family camping trip but I also want to give an accurate description of Jabuchi campground so that others planning a trip there will know what to expect. There is not much information about it on the web in English-so I am hoping this post will help someone decide if this is the right place to stay for their camping experience.
Long post but I hope you enjoy the stories…..
Our long awaited family camping weekend has come and gone. Funny how it seems like it takes forever for an anticipated event to arrive but, once it does, it passes by ever so quickly.
I try to practice being mindful so that I can savor the moments. I tried to do that on this trip. I say “try” because I’m not always successful every moment.
Several days before the camp were spent in a flurry of activity. Well, at least for some of us. Some of us women that is. We went shopping-what a food haul! Wow. I was wondering what army we were going to feed. I spent a half day before -cooking up several batches of island-style coconut tityas (tortillas). They are eaten with chicken kelaguen-another island favorite. I BBQ’d the chicken at camp and made the kelaguen there. It was a HIT.
Any way-we got all the shopping and preparing out of the way and like I said-there was a LOT of food. I’m used to camping a bit different so this whole experience was one that I had to just accept and make my mind up that I was not going to sit and compare it to my many past camping experiences.
I grew up camping in the wild with my dad. We used to pack his old canvas tent, propane camping stove, old army cots and sleeping bags, canned food and sausages and some of mom’s home-made German sourdough into the old green station-wagon and head up into the north woods. There was no toilet or let alone “bath”. We dug a hole for a toilet and jumped in the lake to take a bath. We even camped in the dead of winter. Taking a bath was done with a damp washcloth inside the tent next to the gas heater.
We gathered firewood and buit ourselves a campfire and dad had one of those tripod things that you could stand over the fire and attach a cooking pot to.
We roughed it but it was a blast!
This camp was much different than what I was used to. First off -we stayed in a (luxury) cabin.
There are eight of these nice cabins and three smaller “huts” (wood buildings with nothing in them but a sleeping room) that sit along a river up in the mountains not far from Mt. Hiko in Miyako. The cabins are right along the road. They aren’t set into the mountain. The road isn’t that busy so that was a plus but I”l be honest and say it was a disappointment that I had to get over. I was hoping for more of a rustic environment-but, that’s the way it was so I had to just accept it. The area is quite beautiful though.
The campground is owned and operated by the government. It is very well maintained as you will see from the pictures. It is definitely not rustic camping.It is more of a get-away spot for people who want to be out in nature but -not really. I guess you could say it’s for city folk who want to camp but not be inconvenienced.I think it is also great for people who have little kids and want to “camp” but don’t want to be totally stressed out doing it.
The inside of the cabins are beautiful but in a simple way.
The cabins have a sleeping loft with five futons that are slung over the half wall. Downstairs is a small mini-kitchen with a single electric cooking burner, a rice cooker, a microwave, a hot-pot to heat water and a small fridge. There are a few pots and pans and some plastic plates, cups, bowls..etc. The cabins have wall AC units and a fan. The tub/shower room is very nice (very clean) as well as the toilet room and wash-basin area. All were very, very clean and well maintained.
The upstairs loft can sleep about eight to ten people comfortably. We had a few more up there. It was cramped. There were about eight more people sleeping in the kitchen area. We had quite a large group.
The futons are THIN. Really thin. I felt like I was sleeping on the hardwood floor. I think I slept about two or three hours. I woke several times during the night with a (child’s) foot draped over my body or my head. Not ideal but-that’s the way it was so I lay there trying to enjoy the sounds of snoring and campfire smoke smell that clung to hair and shirts remembering the laughter and fun of the evening.
Each luxury cabin comes with the use of a beautiful BBQ pavilion.
Along one wall is a long concrete sink with several faucets and a counter area. This is where all the cooking was done-and cook we did…ALL day. BBQing and chopping and making all sorts of “camp food”. Honestly- I’ve never seen so much cooking at a camp before! Despite the cooking for an army-everyone seemed to be enjoying it. Everyone helped with something and had fun while doing it.
We had an armed camp guard that made sure there was no loafing around. (lol)
We didn’t stand there and cook all day, some of us played in the river with the kids or explored the area. Some preferred to sit at the BBQ pavilion nibbling and drinking and chatting and watching us play in the river.
The river is cool and incredibly clean. The rocks were beautifully worn from thousands of years of water rushing over them. There were so many little fish! I noticed that the thing to “do” was to bring a small plastic fish tank and a butterfly net. Dozens of kids were excitedly scooping up fish and dumping them into their plastic aquariums. All the fish were let go again later.
The campground was full to capacity. It is usually booked full for the season well in advance. I was thinking that the cabins might be a nice place to lodge if you had a group that decided to go hiking on Mt. Hiko because of its close proximity. That would probably be fun. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time the kids come out. That would make the hiking trip that much more fun and special. I have no idea when the season closes for the cabins. Some of the cabins here aren’t open all year round because of the snow/road conditions. Either that or they aren’t worth keeping open because there aren’t many campers at that time.
The roads coming up here are narrow and get snow-covered during winter. They aren’t plowed either. Next to that guardrail it goes straight down the cliff.
I enjoyed walking the little path that went the length of the cabin area. There were several giant Japanese swallow-tailed butterflies. I tried to take a photograph of one that landed on a flower. It fluttered up over my head and around again and almost landed on my face.
There were many different species of butterflies – everywhere!
The kids were spying on the wild animal that was lurking beneath the next door cabin…..
What a ferocious animal it was too!! We hid behind the BBQ pavilion so that it would come creeping out from under the cabin and we could get a picture of it….
Jabuchi is also famous for a small waterfall. If you follow the path down towards the office area you will come to a set of steps that lead down the side of the hill and into a cavern-like place where the river cascades down in two gushing “falls”.
It’s actually a really cool place. The water falls into a rather deep pool and then flows on downstream rushing over rocks and boulders and centuries-old crevices sculpted into the rock by the force of the water. The falls area looks like a large basin that was carved into the surrounding forest and if you look up a canopy of trees encircles the basin and makes it seem as if you are in a bowl-looking up through the trees. Off to the left is a small thin waterfall. A single thin stream of water that falls down upon a large rock that has also been shaped by the constant pressure running over it. This small, thin waterfall was magical. I don’t know how to describe it. It was this beautiful anomaly that was mesmerizing to behold.
I wish I could have captured the essence of it in my photograph.
It is difficult to tell from the photo but the distance from the rock to the top of the cliff where the water comes cascading down is actually quite high. If I took a picture with someone standing up there -they would appear pretty small.
There was a path that led up into the forest for a bit. It was not very long at all. The stairs led up and around and down to the other side of the river and a few cabins that were nestled beside the falls. I wanted to get some pictures back there but the cabins were occupied and I didn’t want to intrude.
Part of our “package” included a campfire. No, you can’t make your own campfire. Within walking distance, up the road a bit is a fire pit. The “office” will build a campfire for you that you get to light. They collect and pile all the wood for you and kind of stand back and supervise to make sure no one gets hurt.
As soon as it got dark we all hiked over to the fire pit for our packaged campfire experience. If you want a campfire it costs an additional 4,500 yen (around $45).
But…what’s a family camp without a campfire?
It took a while to get the fire going-but I think the men had fun engineering that whole thing-adjusting the wood and fanning the embers as they started to glow. A group of kids from the neighboring camp ran over and offered sparklers to help-throwing several lit sparklers into the middle of the wood pile.
As our fire began to consume the pile pf wood we had a lot of fun sharing stories-some ghost stories (of course…what’s a campfire without ghost stories) and wild animal stories. My brother in law (who had a “few” under his belt) wanted to know how the American Indians danced around their campfires (he had seen it on TV) so I made a show of teaching him (and a few others) a mock Indian fire dance complete with whoops made my slapping my hand over my mouth…it was fun and hilarious as they all joined in. I was then taught Japanese fire dancing. It was just a lot of silly fun.
The cabin area took on a different personality at night. Who knew what creature was lurking around some dark corner or staring at us with luminous eyes from deep within the forest?
Now, all the kids needed to hold someone’s hand to run back to the cabin! Who knows? That man-eating cat could be hiding behind a rock ready to pounce!
One by one the kids were taken into the cabin to have a bath and get into summer pj’s. Futons were spread and spaces were claimed…and before you know it the sounds of little snores could be heard. Speaking of snoring….hubby and I were sitting in camping chairs on the left side of the BBQ area with our backs to the hut that sat next to our BBQ place. Suddenly we heard several loud snorts that for a moment we honestly thought were coming from a wild boar. The mountains around here are full of them and they can be quite dangerous. Our eyes grew big….hubby got up to inspect and I saw him cocking one ear and walking towards the hut…could there be a wild boar hiding under it getting ready to charge us?
Everyone in the BBQ hushed…holding our breath we watched as my brave husband fearlessly crept towards the next door hut….
…then I noticed that the window was open. The snorts were coming from within the hut that was occupied by several old men who we had seen having an “old-man’s camp”. Their BBQ area was on the opposite side of their hut-I had seen several cases of empty beer and sochu bottles stacked up-lol. It looked like they were having a grand-old man’s time. BBQing sausages and drinking and laughing.
No worries-no wild boar was about to come charging. We all had a good laugh and carried on with our “camping”.
Long about midnight, as soon as the tub room was free, hubby and I went in and had our nightly bath. It is common here for couples to bathe together. Most tub rooms are large and can accommodate at least 2-3 people. Bathing is a family affair here in Japan. It is wholesome and “clean” (no pun intended) and for us a wonderful time of sharing. After a long hot day of outdoor fun the bath was relaxing and wonderful. We donned our camping pj’s and went up to the loft to see about finding a place to crash for the night.
The next morning-as soon as I noticed the sun coming up over the trees (which must have been before 5 am) I made my way downstairs, carefully avoiding stepping on slumbering campers, and brewed a big pot of coffee and then returned to the bath to sooth my aching bones from sleeping on a hard, thin, futon.
Gosh, drinking that cup of coffee while sitting outside on a cool rock over-looking the river was… delicious!
Little by little everyone helped to pack up the camping “stuff” that was just everywhere. The cabins have a check in and check out time. Check in is at 1pm and check out is at 10am. The big cabins with the bathrooms and such are around 148.00 a night. Something like that. We shared all expenses as a family and it came to $80 bucks a family. Not bad at all considering all the food we had and the cabin expense (plus the campfire).
We packed and hauled the supplies back up to the cars. Most of the group went to a river for the day to let the kids splash around. Hubby and I went our own way….we got lost for several hours on the way home. I mean that literally. We had NO idea where we were. After several stops to ask two farmers, an old lady tending her garden and a young gal waiting outside an ancient looking train station we were able to negotiate the small country roads until we found the bypass that led us home. We were lost in the Japan countryside and it was glorious! We actually had a wonderful time being lost.
Of course I took pictures.
We actually had a wonderful time. New experience for me and I enjoyed it. I’m thinking of several possibilities for this area…retreats and such. My wheels are turning. :)
Here are some more pictures that are right off my other camera-unedited in any way.
Off to the next adventure!