Au­tumn ad­ven­ture

The fun con­tin­ues at a three-day au­tumn camp at Ak­agi Rinkan Gakuen.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE - SARAH MORI

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

jump­ing.

A sec­tion of Tone­gawa, the sec­ond long­est river in Ja­pan.

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