The weekend of Sept. 19th/20th we went to the Oze National Park in Gunma.
Although it was a bit far – it takes about 4 hours to get to the park – we enjoyed the weekend.
Here are some pictures:
Sunday October 4th, 2015
Comments Off on Oze National Park Hiking
Saturday May 16th, 2015
Comments Off on Golden week Niijima trip, May 1-5, 2015
Reported by Billy
We (five of us) had a wonderful Golden Week trip to Niijima Island, thanks Yumiko for organizing! We took an overnight ferry from Takeshiba Pier Friday after work. The ferry stopped at a couple other islands to let off passengers, and we arrived Niijima early about 7 am (and came back on the following Tuesday).
On our first day on Niijima a really nice friend of Yumiko’s who lives on the island drove us around for sightseeing. Niijima is a volcanic island surrounded by beautiful blue ocean, and many other islands could be seen in different directions. The rocks on Niijima are special.. not usual dark volcanic rocks but somehow lighter in color and good for making glass. They are very light for their size and you can easily pick up a rock of a size that would normally be too heavy to budge! The rocks are also easy to carve into, and there are big and little statues all over the island made from these rocks of mermaids, animals, polynesians etc..
A dark point about Niijima is there are deer traps everywhere. Although I never saw a deer, I saw dozens of deer traps, which consisted of giant springs connected to wire nooses placed atop wooden traps covered with some leaf litter. These traps placed at openings (maybe natural deer trails) where the shrubby forest that covers the island meets the side of roads or meadows. There is a sign near each trap that warns you not to step there and have your leg ripped off. Because some kanji is difficult for me, the first time I found a trap I actually touched it with my hand before I realized what it was, but luckily did not apply enough pressure to spring the mechanism.
We stayed at a kind of hotel/retreat owned by the city of Shibuya-ku. Breakfasts and dinners at the Shibuya-ku accomodations were fantastic big Japanese style meals. The resident manager of the accomodations even went out and caught us fresh fish which he served as sashimi, and also served us fresh vegetables he grew himself. If you live in Shibuya-ku I highly recommend those accomodations. Really cheap even with the meals, thats your taxes hard at work – otsukaresama desu!
Between the meals we entertained ourselves in various ways. The island had a lot to offer in terms of onsens, sightseeing, and water sports like surfing or snorkeling. I had a wet suit so really enjoyed snorkeling on Niijima, and even more so on Shikine island. Shikine is a mere 10 minute ferry ride from Niijima and a jewel of the pacific.
We had great neighbors at the Shibuya-ku accomodations, and we got to know a couple nice families with really wonderful kids. While drinking with one of the dads, he convinced me to try a really strange food called kusaya, which is small fish preserved in the smelliest liquid you could ever imagine. If you hold your nose shut the taste is ok but the smell is unworldly, impossible to describe.
Friday May 8th, 2015
Comments Off on Jimba-Takao Hike (May 6th 2015)
Participants: Niall, Javier, 1 more person .
Organised and reported by: Stephanie.
There were some delays on the JR that morning, a train had apparently hit an animal, but the train company had considerately shifted the schedules of the rest of the trains to suit.
Conditions were perfect for hiking, with lovely sunny weather, warm, mild temperatures and a refreshing breeze. The route wasn’t crowded at all. And with a relaxed lunch break, as well as regular rest stops, we still managed to complete the 21-km route faster than the suggested 7.5-hours map time by one hour.
Thursday May 7th, 2015
Comments Off on Flowers Galore Hike
Led by Stephanie
Participants: Hiro, Mika, Erika, Billy, Maciek, Hiromi, Minako
Reported by Hiro & Mika
山の花お道(Mountain Flower Road)、日向山(Mt.Hinata)、卜雲寺(Bokuunji Temple)、法長寺(Hocho Temple)、語歌堂(Gokadou Hall)、大慈寺(Daijiji Temple)、常楽寺(Joraku Temple)を経て羊山公園(Hitsujiyama Park)まで、約6時間のハイキングでした。
そこからお寺巡りの開始ですが、今度は下りの急な階段あり、下が濡れていて滑りそうになりながら降りて卜雲寺に到着しました。そこから、語歌堂へ向かう途中、庭先で食事中の方から、「ちょっと待って、ちょっと待って、お姉さん」と呼び止められました。何かと思ったら、全員に柏餅と桜餅のお裾分けをいただきました。その後もお寺巡りを続け、お庭のガーデニングを公開しているお宅で見学をしていたら、今度は麦茶とお菓子のもてなしを受けました。私たちが巡ったお寺は秩父三十四箇所(Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary)のお寺だったので、「おせったい（巡礼者にお菓子、食事、宿を提供する地元の習慣）」を受けたのだと思いました。
Friday April 24th, 2015
Comments Off on Takao-san hike and hanami picnic, April 12, 2015
Participants: about 15 IAC members, friends, and NeNe!
Organizers: Stephanie and Billy
Reported by Billy
We had a nice hike and mountain hanami last weekend on Takao-san. It had been raining or cloudy almost every day recently, so we were lucky to have nice spring weather that day. The mountain cherry trees bloom about 2 weeks later than the Tokyo trees do, so we were expecting to enjoy a picnic hanami under cherry blossoms.
I met Rolf on the Keio line train from Shinjuku, and we met the others outside the gate at Takaosanguchi Station. I thought Takao might be super crowded that day, but Stephanie knew the least crowded trail to take, so it was a nice and not too crowded hike. Kiki brought her little Datsun NeNe-chan, so everyone was cheered. NeNe’s little legs had no problem going up most of the trail, but we carried her up or down the steepest parts so she would not overdo anything. The trail was pretty muddy that day because of recent rains, but NeNe was only somewhat muddy, even being a long-haired datsun. I didn’t understand how my own pant legs were more muddy than her shorter, furry legs.
After about a 2 hour hike to the top of the mountain we hiked about 30 minutes more to a place called Thousand Cherry Trees, that was a good place for a picnic. A lot of people were having picnics there, and we found a nice spot at the side of a big picnic clearing surrounded by cherry and other trees. Because of recent rains and the timing, it wasn’t mostly mankai (full bloom) sakura blossoms, but the mountain sakuras were blooming and it was a very nice setting to have our picnic. We all enjoyed a lot of different foods that people had brought to share, as well as nice wines from Italy, Spain, and France!
It was about the best picnic you could imagine. If one had to complain, some of our plastic sheets to sit on were on a slight slope, so we had to be a little careful so as not to spill anything, especially when setting down our wine glasses in order to eat properly. Of course, this worked out to NeNe’s advantage when Rolf managed to spill a soft boiled egg, which then became part of NeNe’s lunch!
Much of the hike down was along the the warterfall trail, which was not crowded and went along a river and passed a famous small waterfall. In that area, a long time ago, a deer led a traveling musician to a saint who lived next to that river, and we could still feel it was a special place. We enjoyed hiking along that trail, and then came out to the main trail where it was possible to buy local foods and goods before arriving back at the station.
Friday April 3rd, 2015
Comments Off on IAC Hanami Party 2015 @Kinuta Park
29 March 2015
We had lovely IAC hanami this year on March 29 in Kinuta koen near Yoga. Its outside of central Tokyo, and first time to go to this big park for me and many others. This park was Take”s suggestion as he lives nearby, and he also picked the best spot in the park to hold our picnic. It was a few days early before the full bloom of sakura (cherry flowers), but our site was surrounded by relatively early blooming sakura so we could experience the mankai (満開) (cherries in full bloom) or very nearly mankai !
It was very sunny and blue sky in the morning, but cloudy by the time our party started but still warm, especially for this time of year. About 20 – 30 friends and members or IAC showed up, and we had several big tarps laid out in the cherry blossom shape, so the seating was very comfortable and not crowded at all. We enjoyed nice wines, nihonshu, and different kinds of foods together as well as a lot of sparkling wines and personalities !
Later in the afternoon, around 3 pm or so some light drizzle started so we packed things up, it had been a lot of fun and I was not feeling like things were over too soon at all, I had had a good fill of eating, drinking and cavorting. It wasn’t one of those parties that leaves you feeling hungry and sober, but rather drunk and sated.
Thanks Take and other IAC members who helped out (especially Stephanie and Mizue) for nice hanami last weekend!
Sunday March 8th, 2015
Comments Off on Shiobara Onsen (Tochigi) Snowshoe and Cross Country Ski trip
10 to 12th January 2015
Leader: Yumiko #1
Participants: Jeremy, Yuji, Taeko, Ben, Shuji, Kuniko, Yumiko #2, Yuko
Since moving to Sendai 2 years ago, I haven’t made my way to many IAC events, which are usually in Kanto. However, this time the event was in Tochigi, about halfway between Tokyo and Sendai, so it was easy for me to get here. I took the train to Nasushiobara station on Saturday morning. Shuji and the Yumikos drove up from Tokyo and met me there, and we drove up the valley to Shiobara Onsen. There, we met Onsen-man Endo-san, an old-time IAC member who had recently returned to Japan after 13 years working for a Japanese company in China. A neat guy, he received his Ph.D. in forestry in the US, then worked for a Japanese paper company in China, and after returning to Japan, decided to pursue his dream of owning and running an Onsen, and we were his first customers.
After arriving at the onsen, we waited for the second car from Tokyo, with the rest of the folks. The weather was nice and sunny, but super-duper windy, so we hung out inside and helped Onsen-man prepare food. We also discovered the karaoke machine which came with the onsen when he purchased it. The karaoke machine was from the 1980’s, so we had to make some repairs before being able to use it, but eventually it worked, though since it was so old, I didn’t know most of the songs it had. The older IAC folks had a blast with the old songs though. Plus, we were all amazed by Endo-san’s wife, who used to be a professional singer back in China, and whose songs moved us all.
Sunday the wind subsided, and we drove up to a country club in the mountains. In the wintertime, the golf course becomes a 5km cross-country ski course! It was my first chance to use my new ski boots that my Mom had just shipped me from the US. Yumiko #1 also skied, and the others hiked in snowshoes. The weather was warm and sunny, and it felt like a California Lake Tahoe spring ski trip. We had some great views of the snowy Nikko mountains while skiing and hiking. Besides us, there were lots of people snowmobiling on a separate set of trails, and other were mushing sled dogs (big huskies). After about 2 hours on the trails, we returned to the clubhouse for lunch, then headed back to the onsen. After that, more karaoke, food, and hot baths. The onsen here isn’t too smelly, and isn’t too hot, so perfect for a westerner like me.
Onsen-man and his wife brought 2 big sheep-like dogs and 2 cats back with them from China, so we played with them after skiing, then dinner and more karaoke and slideshows from other outdoor trips (Ben’s cycling in Bangkok, my snowboarding and hiking in Tohoku, Onsen-man’s onsen exploration in China).
Monday was a holiday, so the group headed out again to a nearby park for more snowshoe hiking. After returning to the onsen for a bath and lunch, they drove me back to Nasushiobara station, and I took the train back to Sendai, while they all drove back to Tokyo. I can’t wait to float over the snow again with my new cross country ski boots!
Friday December 5th, 2014
Comments Off on Weekend Okutama Hike: Mitou-san
29 to 30th November 2014
Participants: Niall and Tiep
Friday December 5th, 2014
Comments Off on IAC Annual BBQ 2014
Friday December 5th, 2014
Comments Off on Hiking to Lake Okutama
16th November 2014
Organisers: Rolf and Kiki – co-organizers
Participants: Yukiko, Yasuko, Musumi, Loric, Billy, and Nene
We had a Great hike in Okutama on a Sunday, thanks Rolf and Kiki.. and NeNe!
We had to get up early to catch the train, and took the Chuo line holiday express to Okutama Station. Okutama is a nice mountain area about an hour train ride west west of Shinjuku. Seven of us and Nene, a wonderful little datsun, met at Okutama Station. It was a definitely a fine autumn day, cool and sunny.
A couple shops were near the station, so we could buy some snacks and drinks. We started our hike up some little roads on the side of the mountain, going past houses where country folk must live, and then we were following an old railway that has been out of use for some time (pic1). Nene’s little legs carried her up the mountain, happy for the fresh air and abundant smells. (pic 2) We were hiking along country roads and paths. There was a yuzu tree with orange citrus fruits tantalizing us.(pic 3) Nene wanted me to get some but they were just out of reach. Luckily we could buy some that were already picked and set out on a table, 3 for 100 yen..
We shared a tasty Yuzu and saved some for lunch and went on with our hike. Our trail went along a river but kind of high up on a slope, so we saw nice fall foilage and beautiful sparkly river scenes, sometimes leaves flew up unexplainably, there was yellow ichyo and red momiji, and mixes of hardwood and cedar forests on more distant hills. (pic 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
At one point Nene was startled by some country dog chained up by a house next to the path. Nene changed direction and ran full-speed back down the trail back from where we came, her ears were back and tails down!! We managed to get her to come back , and carried her past the barking country dog. Nene is a really brave Datsun but this country bumpkin had really surprised her!
More things happened.. We went by old shrine, home to a very generous god. That shrine had a rare slab of exposed fault-line rock hanging over it, that I was told is of great interest to geologists. (pic 9)
We came across suspension bridges that tended to have bicyclists in spandex and sunglasses waiting in lines, wanting to peer down at streams.
We were getting hungry and ate at an old garden part of where a house used to be, just rock walls now the footprint of a house. (pic 10, 11)
It was a wonderful sunny lunch, and NeNe definitely got her share of fruits and vegetables. Then we hiked more, finally coming down the mountain, and could view a big lake that Tokyo gets its water from.(Pic 12) We carried Nene a little so she wouldn’t have to walk down the steep parts of the trail with a full belly. Winding up at a bus station, we caught a bus back to the country train station and took the Chuo line back to Tokyo..