Monday, September 14, 2015

Camping at Lake Motosu

Going back almost two years now, when we first found out that there was a good chance that we'd be moving to Japan after Peter finished his residency in Texas, I began researching the areas around Yokota Air Base.  I wanted to know where it was in relation to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, etc.  I discovered that Yokota was only about an hour from Mt. Fuji, and this got me REALLY excited.  Fast forward a few months (still in Texas, pretty sure that we'd be moving to Japan by this point) and I came across an article about stand-up paddle boarding in the Fuji 5 Lakes, which are the 5 lakes that are all very close to the base of Mt. Fuji.  It was at this point that I became determined to visit the lakes, camp, and go paddle boarding once we moved to Yokota.  Fast forward again to a year ago when we moved here.  Last summer/fall, Bennett was still very young, we were traveling quite a bit, and we hadn't yet figured out exactly where the best camping was near Fuji 5 Lakes, so we never made it out.  

But this summer I was determined to make it happen!

And we did!  We figured out that the Koan Campground at Lake Motosu was the place to go!  They have campsites lakeside, as well as a "tent village" down the road across from the lake.  And, at the Koan Motosu Inn,  (where you pay for your campsite, can eat, and even stay) you are able to rent kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, scuba equipment, etc.  

We camped at the "tent village" camp-jo (campground) down the road from the Inn, rather than lakeside (the campsite lakeside is much smaller with the tents quite close to one another).  The camp-jo we went to is nestled in the forest at the foot of the mountains across the street from the lake.  We literally had the entire camp-jo to ourselves!  The campground itself was amazing--plenty of space to run around and explore, nice flat ground for our tents, a bunch of sinks, and (clean!!!) bathrooms with showers.   

Just across the street from the camp-jo is Lake Motosu.  From Lake Motosu, as long as it's not too cloudy, Mt. Fuji is visible and the entire setting is absolutely breathtaking--I never cease to be amazed by how incredibly beautiful this country is!  

After setting up camp on Friday when we arrived, we went over to check out the lake and play around.  The side where we were doesn't have groomed beaches, but there was plenty of space to hang out, splash around, and throw rocks in the water.  All of the kids had a blast, but especially Bennett!  He did not hesitate getting into the water at all!  Plus, I swear all boys are this way, but he could literally throw rocks into the lake ALL DAY.  He would've been content to do it all weekend, in fact!  But, I'm not complaining--it's easy entertainment, and we had an incredible backdrop!

After playing at the lake, we went back to our campsite and finished getting everything out that we would need for the night.  Then we built our fire and began preparing dinner.  We roasted hot dogs and finished off with s'mores, of course.  

We ate dinner pretty early, so we had plenty of time to relax, swing in the hammock, play, and explore.  Then, once it got dark we played Marco Polo, which was Peter's ingenious idea.  It was pretty pitch black, so Peter would wander out and hide, and then the kids and I (armed with lanterns and flash lights) would yell "Marco" as Peter answered with "Polo" until we'd eventually find him.  It was so much fun and I couldn't believe how daring our kids were to go wandering around a strange forest in the darkness of night--they even played several rounds without me because I was cleaning up from dinner and getting Bennett changed.

The kids were exhausted by 7:00pm (their normal bedtime), so we put them down and all of them, even Bennett, went straight to sleep.  This gave Peter and I chance to sit and talk by the campfire for a couple of hours which was really nice--it was like we were on our own camping date!  Then, we went and joined our three little rascals in the tent for what turned out to be not such a great night's sleep . . . Will and Clara slept great in the double sleeping with Peter :)  However, Clara likes to cuddle a lot, so I don't think Peter had a whole lot of space!  But, the real challenge was Bennett.  He had his pack 'n play in the tent, and went down without a problem, but then a couple of hours after we came to bed he woke up!  And was wide awake!  And he wanted to party!  So, for about 2 hours Peter and I traded off trying desperately to get him back to sleep.  It was kind of rough. Then, a couple of hours after that, Will woke up!  At 5:00am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready for the day!  Needless to say, Peter and I were tired :)  But, it could have been worse.  And the older the kids get, the better it'll get, so we're not going to let a few sleepless hours stop us from doing it all again!

Since our kids are such early risers, we had our hot chocolate, oatmeal, and cereal and were ready for the day by 7:00!  We decided to take advantage of our incredible surroundings and head out on one of the trails that lead out from our campsite.  We chose one that said it was about an hour hike, according to the little sign, and just hoped that it would take us to the summit so that we could get a great view of the lake and Mt. Fuji.  The hike started out mellow enough, but got pretty steep pretty quickly!  William did great, but about a half an hour into it, he burned out.  Peter ran ahead a ways to check things out, but once he realized that the hike we chose wouldn't get us to the view we wanted, we decided to head back down.  It was all so beautiful though and a great way to start out our morning.

After our hike, we cleaned up and packed up camp, ate an early lunch and went over to the Koan Motosu Inn to rent some canoes and get in the lake!  Ideally, we would have rented stand-up paddle boards, but Peter and I decided that we didn't want to have to wait and take turns going out and watching the kids on the shore, and that they'd have more fun anyway if we went canoeing instead.  So that's what we did!  We got two canoes and paddled around and had little races in the lake (I'm not going to tell you who won every single race, but I will tell you that Peter may have bragged about having gotten his canoeing merit badge as a boy scout . . . ).  It was a lot of fun!  William loved having his own paddle and Clara was happy as long as she didn't get splashed and had her own seat :)  And Bennett is crazy.  As long as he is outside and with his family he is a happy guy.

Camping at Lake Motosu was so so so much fun!  We can't wait to go back, next time hopefully with friends!  Plus, it's close to a whole bunch of fun places to check out--like all of the caves!  After canoeing we went to a lava ice cave--blog post coming soon!

GPS Coordinates for Koan Motosu Inn (where the campsites are reserved/paid for, and where you can rent recreational equipment): 35.473811, 138.573248

GPS Coordinates for the "tent village" camp-jo at which we stayed (paid for at the Koan Motosu Inn): 35.451829, 138.571253

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