First of all: Happy new year! Hope you all had a great start into 2015!
Speaking for myself, I had quite a adventurous holiday.
After spending Christmas time in Germany, Sascha & me packed our Camper van for some days in the Hokkaido snow paradise!
Just in case you wonder:
Yes, with the idea of sleeping in the car! Yes, it gets quite cold in Hokkaido in winter time 🙂
Because again we were too lazy to book the ferry from Aorai or Niigata to Hokkaido upfront, we drove to Aomori and took the ferry to Hakodate which goes more often and is more flexible to book short-termed.
Arriving on the northern island, suddenly streets were covered with snow, and I was happy that we came with winter tires and brought snow chains.
After another 2 hour drive we arrived in the Niseko area. Puh, in total our journey took 16hours, and I was not convinced at the first day, it’s gonna be worth it.
The first Ski Area we visited was Niseko Moiwa, known for being less crowded. Which is true, but as well it is somehow small.
But anyway a good, easy start with not as much powder as I expected. This changed over night!
Covered under blankets, the first night was surprisingly warm with only -5 degrees. We parked the Car on a parking area close to the Gondola in Hirafu and next morning we had snow up you the lower door ridge. So therefore the day in the Niskeo Hanazono Ski area was just perfect! Even new powder on the slope and in the backcountry you could totally sink into the fresh powder.
And it continued like this! Only disadvantage was, also the temperature decreased and the wind got very strong for some days, so extra clothes and a hot Onsen bath after the day in the snow was necessary to warm up again.
New Year’s Eve we spend outside with a bunch of Australian people, and a fireworks in front of Mt. Yotei!
And the résumé, of 4 days winter camping in Hokkaido? I have to say, the North of Japan is getting my favourite part of the beautiful country and I’m afraid, I will never have such nice powder snow again back in Europe. Therefore, all the freezing was worth it!
Stayed now for several weeks in Tokyo – time to get out again! I love the city, but because it’s red leaf (Koyo) time, we headed to Okutama. Most people visit Nikko or Hakone for the red leaf season, but if you are interested in combining your trip with a scenic hike, I would always recommend Okutama!
Of course you can go there by train, roughly 2 hours from Tokyo, but if you come by car, you will have nice scenic roads and more opportunities to escape the crowds.
First day, we visited Okutama lake and drove up to the mountains, for some nice views. Later on we headed back to Kawai and found a more or less remote parking area next to the river, to stay at night! And of course, due to November temperatures, it got realllllyyy cold!
Therefore, I did not have a problem to get up early: 5:30! Fast breakfast and to the cable car close to Mitake station.
Tip: get there early, otherwise the waiting queue gets long and there will be no parking space left. And it is also allowed to bring Mountain Bikes up there, so there has to be a MTB route somewhere. I will try to figure that out
First stop Mt. Mitake and the Musashi Miatke-Jinja. We followed the hiking path further to Mt Odake and because of the great weather and the cold air we caught a gorgeous view of Mt. Fuji! Was really worth the first 1,5-2hour part of the hike. Still 9km to go, to get to Okutama. And even so the Lonely Planet describes this hike as easy-moderate, calculating 4-5hours, I have to say I would judge it at least moderate. Partly steep, stony and narrow and at the end it took as 6 hours including breaks. But worth all the trouble!! Nice views, beautiful changing landscapes and a lot of red autumn leafs.
Only the traffic jam back to Tokyo was annoying….
Again some lazy posting weeks…
But a lot happened! Sascha and me visited Comiket, went to Kistune night with digitalism, had a firework in front of our window and most important:
got a lot of visitors in the last 2 months!! which means a lot of sightseeing in Tokyo, karaoke, maid cafe, purikia and one first-time-event: the Roboter Restaurant (ロボットレストラン).
For those who did not visit the place yet. Go there with some friends you can laugh a lot with, have some beer and enjoy the totally crazy, laser, robot, neon coloured, overloaded spectacle.
Thanks Magda & Kai, for convincing us to go there and thanks as well to Eike, Marcel, Vonne & Dely for a great time. Was fun to have you here 🙂
So – next stop Miyazaki. Famous for its beautiful beaches. Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed. Maybe the reason was somehow, that due to the Typhoon a lot of garbage and dirt was washed ashore and the water was more brown than clear.
From a Auto-Camping site, by bike, we visited the small island Aoshima. The whole area is famous for the interesting shapes stones at around the island and shore, shaped like “Wash-boards” – therefore called “the devil/giant wash-board”.
Before getting a sunburn, our trip lead us to Mt. Yufu, close to Bepu. Next to the entrance of the Hike up to the mountain, we found a small parking area to spend the night. Next morning, at 6:00 we started our hike to the two summits. Again I have to say: Hiking in Japan is challenging. If the hike is described as “moderate” be aware it can include short passage, were you have to climb, as well as steep, narrow paths. At the end, and due to a not very accurate map, it took as 6.5 hours for 12km trough the mountains. But the view from the Top was stunning!
Afterwards, thanks to the Lonely planet, we visited a small, mixed bathhouse in Yufuin
The next day the rain catched up. When driving to the mystic morning scene of Shikoku, along the Shimanto River, the rain got so strong, we had to drive along, to get to Osaka in the evening. Anyway, what I saw in Shikoku looked like, Kayaking and hiking can be really nice there. So I’m a little sad to miss the chance to spend more time in that region.
Osaka than was a like getting back to “big-city-reality”. Crowded, hot and noisy as well as completely different to Tokyo. I liked it very much, because as written before the city is a little bit less structured and organized and therefore everything seems to be a little bit more flexible.
So a good last stop on our trip before returning to Musashi-Kosugi!
The next night we planned to spend on and Auto-Camping site in the North-western area of Honshu. If you search forオートキャンプ on GoogleMaps there are a plenty of camping sites
BUT: due to the coming typhoon all of them were closed, and even more surprising, even some were not opens since years it seemed. So at least it was a good chance to take some pictures of another abandoned place in Japan. And again it felt little bit spooky to enter such a place, where somehow time stood still.
So we had to spend the night once more on a parking space close to the coastline, which was very quite during night time.
Before driving to Fukuoka we wanted to stay on day at the beach and by surprise we found a hidden camping site at the very end of Honshu with a beautiful sunset (うしろはま, Shimonoseki). Due to the typhoon still moving over Japan, we had the whole beach for ourselves and spend 2000Yen for the camping site.
To see the VW Camper we drove to Fukuoka – but where to camp in the middle of the city? We decided to spend some money on a hotel for one night. And again, because of the typhoon the city was almost empty and the hotels did have some discounts.
Sadly, the next morning we checked the VW camper van, but it was not as good in shape as expected, to we will remain faithful to our GMC van. At least I got the chance to get an impression of Fukuoka, where night-life takes place much more outdoors.
In march we already travelled to Kyushu. Unluckily it was raining almost all of the time. So we decided: let’s try again this Obon week (Summer holiday in Japan)
Reasons? Even with rain Kyushu was beautiful and we wanted to spend some more time outside of the van, as well we wanted to check out another Camper van in Fukuoka (VW – yeahhh!), to add to our “collection”.
We started our trip by driving to Lake Biwa, close to Kyoto, Japan’ largest freshwater lake. Around Moriyama, there are some nice, stony beaches with barbecue areas, where you can spend your day.
After spending a night on a hidden parking area close to the Okayama port (not a good idea – because I got noisy due to the fisher boats at 5:00), we travelled one day to Naoshima island, to visit the Art projects. If you are somehow interested in Art I would recommend to go there! We brought our own bikes, but you can also rent bikes at the port and do the whole tour of roughly 14km by bike.
And Naoshima Bath house (I♥湯) looks a little bit weird, but Is a nice contrast to other typical Japanese onsen.
The city is to busy for you? The crowds to big & and everything to fast? Just get in the train towards Okutama.
This is still “Tokyo”, but in 1,5 hours by train you are in the middle of nowhere, without even an Konbini (Convenience Stores). So bring your own food!
In this area, you can do short hikes along the river, or long hikes up to the mountains. If you are lazy, just take the cable car. and a must as a good tourist: Take a picture of “Kawai” Station!