The fun continues at a three-day autumn camp at Akagi Rinkan Gakuen.
THE next morning, I was surprised to see my son and his room-mate already waiting downstairs at the recreation hall, even before the bell chimed at 6am for the wake-up call.
We had a hearty breakfast at the dining hall except for Megumi who fell sick and hardly ate. She is the second daughter of Yuzuru and Manami, who were serving as chaperons at this church camp, together with my husband, Koji, and I.
As it was raining that day, Manami opted for the alternative plan for our outdoor activities after breakfast.
Megumi stayed behind to get some rest, under the watchful eyes of the camp’s staff. We headed for Minakamimachi in Tone District. This town is famous for its hot springs and adrenalin-pumping adventures.
As we drove past Suwakyo, we saw a few adventurers gathering at the bridge for bungee-jumping. The 42m bungee jump is the only one of its kind in Japan.
Surrounded by the Tanigawa mountain range, the air was crisp at Michi-no-eki, a rest area on the highway. We visited Minakami Mizukikokan there. It has a few shops, a cafeteria, a small aquarium, a workshop for making noodles and a room for rock-climbing.
Nearby is Tonegawa, the second longest river in Japan. Meandering on the Kanto Plain from northern Gunma to the Pacific Ocean, Tonegawa is a popular spot for activities such as kayaking, whitewater rafting, and other adventurous sports.
Due to reconstruction, a track along Tonegawa was closed. However, Koji found a route to cross the river. While we were crossing a bridge, a man told us he had seen something extraordinary. My mind wandered to the bear trap we came across during our walk around the camp area the day before.
At a scenic spot, we looked at some monuments with poems inscribed on them. Trudging on, Koji asked if I noticed something along the trail. He then pointed out a signboard that said Dogs’ Toilets, instructing dog owners to dispose of dog poo (in a vinyl bag) in the two dustbins painted in white with black spots like Dalmatians.
I did a double take. Aha! So that was what the man was referring to. I just couldn‘t resist taking a snapshot of it.
Although it was foggy, we could see the bungee jump at the far end. I was hoping to actually see someone doing the bungee jump, but I was disappointed.
We turned back and joined other visitors for a free foot spa. As I bent over to sit on the bench to soak my feet, my camera fell out of my bulky pocket into the water. Everyone gasped. My camera was damaged! Fortunately, the memory card was safe. A pity I couldn’t snap a picture of a heritage steam locomotive (for tourists) that chugged past us.
After our bento lunch at the cafeteria, we visited the aquarium. We giggled ourselves silly when we dipped our hands into the tank and were tickled by the nibbling “doctor fish”.
Next, we proceeded to Takumino-Sato, a village with numerous quaint workshops offering handson experience in making noodles and other foods as well as various traditional crafts.
We chose The Glass House since no reservation was required. Our kids each picked a glass and paper pattern which cost ¥1,000 (RM38). After the instructor pasted the pattern on the surface of the glass, they carved out the design and imprinted it with blown emery. Megumi’s parents made one for her.
Brimming with pride, our kids took home their finished products. As for me, I bought two stainedglass decorations from the shop.
When we got back to the camp in Akagi that evening, four other families had arrived for a stay. The recreation hall was fully occupied by the guests playing sports.
After breakfast at 7am the next day, we packed our bags, cleaned up our rooms and put the used sheets in the big basket provided. Except for the toilets, we were excused from cleaning the public baths this time.
The weather was sunny. Some of the kids went outside to climb the net rope and stroll around the duck pond, barbecue site and gym. Yuzuru, Koji and I took a walk in the woodland surrounding the camp. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bears or other wild animals.
We thanked the staff and left the camp site at 10am. Our vehicles were packed with cheap local produce which we had bought at Shunsaikan, a farmers’ market located near Gunma’s Showa Interchange. There were some stalls selling food for charity that day.
On our journey home, we made several stops to stretch our legs and refresh ourselves. When we reached home in the evening, Megumi said: “Mrs Mori, I’m feeling better now. Let’s go back to Akagi camp.”
I had enjoyed myself at Akagi. No wonder the kids prefer to camp there almost every autumn. n Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, has been living in Japan since 1992. higher learning across the globe. As our children gain their academic credentials overseas, they forge friendships, embrace different cultures and ideology and slowly begin to put down little roots of their own, to the extent that their home country sometimes appears less and less appealing. Is it any wonder then that so many of them choose not to return?
As I look out of my window across the rain-swept kaleidoscope of people, buildings and vehicles in central Rome, I can’t help but think of Scotland. At the same time though, I find myself thinking of the balmy breeze that precedes an afternoon storm in Penang, and the feel of cooling rain on my skin.
Although my children are quickly morphing into global citizens, I know they will still come to visit me whenever they are on holiday, regardless of where I live – at least in the foreseeable future.
I could be in Penang, or Edinburgh, or West Nuriootpa, and it would probably be all the same to them – as long as I have Internet connection.
In years to come, though, they probably won’t call Penang home, but I can happily accept that. Of course, I will insist that they each have a guest bedroom for their visiting mother.
As for me, Penang is still the place I call home.
Thrilling: Bridge over the Tonegawa river, a popular site for bungee
A section of Tonegawa, the second longest river in Japan.